The FLAG Art Foundation presents “Dime-Store Alchemy,” curated by Jonathan Rider, from June 5-August 17, 2018, on the 9th floor. The exhibition features 24 contemporary artists who elevate everyday objects through the framing devices of cabinets, shelves, and containers. Contextualized within the broader legacy of artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) and his celebrated box constructions, this selection of artworks, and their safeguarded contents, addresses issues of identity, value, memory, and time.
“The genius of Cornell,” wrote poet John Ashbery on artist’s 1967 retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, “is that he sees, and enables us to see, with the eyes of childhood, before our vision got clouded by experience, when objects like a rubber ball or a pocket mirror seemed charged with meaning, and a marble rolling across a wooden floor could be as portentous as a passing comet.” This spirit of re-seeing runs throughout each of the pieces in Dime-Store Alchemy—a phrase borrowed from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Simic’s beguiling book of short prose on Cornell.
Artworks by Vincent Fecteau, Curtis Talwst Santiago, and Carolee Schneemann are most directly related to Cornell’s dreamlike box constructions, which utilize found containers as the setting for their theatrical dioramas. Other artists push the boundaries of what could be considered a container: Ryan Gander’s suitcase and carry-on rendered in ghostly white marble; Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt’s dollar store lasagna pans-cum-bejeweled Catholic reliquaries; and Nicole Wermers’s baby changing station resurfaced in polished terrazzo. Susan Hiller combines spiritual and physical healing in her collection of sacred holy water, while Tony Feher’s suspended kickline of plastic bottles, and Damien Hirst’s cigarette butts meticulously arranged in a glass vitrine, each magnify items that are often disregarded. Featuring thousands of saccharine pink products collected over 25 years, Portia Munson’s room-sized installation—itself a cabinet of curiosity—functions as both a portrait of femininity and excessive consumerism. Some works are autobiographical in nature: Sophie Calle memorializes her birthday gifts as evidence of her relationships and mortality, while Francis Cape traces his own career through a pair of impregnable wooden cabinets, cobbled from elements of his previous exhibitions.