Review: “The Incomparables Club” at Rhona Hoffman Gallery

In the darkened second floor gallery space at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Karthik Pandian’s Reversal plays behind curtains.  The single channel moving image program is paired with six heavy humming speakers strategically placed throughout the space allowing viewers to slowly settle in with the moving image.  Filmed with two cameras onto 16mm film, Pandrian’s video is a selection of still images that fade in the Ken Burns style drawing on the nostalgia for documentaries.  Red rectangles slowly move across the stills that allude to 1960’s performance documentary.  With such attention to documentation it comes as a surprise that the image stills and rectangles appear through a program that Pandian has designed to produce random selection choices.  The sound, as well, is produced through chance calculations that play six synthesized tones, which in turn, structure the empty darkened spaced with an auditory architecture.

In the lower gallery objects, which were used or visible in the video stills, are exhibited as a collection of ephemera.  His selection of objects draws on Pandian’s earlier interest in archeological methodologies.  Cast bronze gloves, an perpetually emptied bottle of whiskey, and boxing gloves on a curved arc, all are objects that concern themselves with tongue-in-cheek reference to 60’s conceptualism and its historic lineage to the Dada readymade.  For Pandian this archeological methodology comes as no surprise.  In his 2011 exhibition at the Whitney Museum “Unearth,” Pandian turned to the Native American city of Cahokia and featured monolithic columns filled with earth and embedded strips of film.  In “The Incomparables Club” he nostalgically exhumes the cool of the 60’s, and with it, the insularity of the “cool” of the time.

Pandian considers each of these images encapsulated “medium and motion” memories that zoom through the contained space of the projection room.  In it, he allows viewers to be mesmerized and captivated by synthesized humming that displaces focus with aestheticized seduction. And much like the minimalist artists of the 60’s, we are left out of the club.  Indeed, the surface of the objects are polished, reflective, and presented with such autonomy that they disregard the viewer.  In fact the gaze reflects from the object towards other objects in the room, seeking to find one that will allow entrance into Pandian’s club.  In the back room Muddy Waters, a mop leaning against the wall has been used to clean up Drakkar Noir cologne.  Paired with other objects that resemble ready-mades, Muddy Waters leaves viewers inspecting for perfection in the object’s imperfections to find the punch line.  The objects in the gallery are left as reminders of what was seen in the film, they comparable to objects seen in galleries to remind us of what has been seen in history.  Unfortunately with Pandian, this might not be the cool club we wanted to remember.

“The Incomparables Club” is now on view at Rhona Hoffman Gallery through April 20th, 2013.

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