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Mircea Cantor and Israel Rosenfield 9/17

Mircea Cantor
Mircea Cantor: Still From Deeparture, 2005


September 16-October 11, 2005
Tuesday-Saturday 10-6pm

Opening Reception: Friday September 16, 2005 6-9pm

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The gallery will be hosting a discussion between Mircea Cantor and Israel Rosenfield on September 17th, from 5pm - 6pm. A cocktail reception will follow.

Israel Rosenfield writes frequently for The New York Review of Books and teaches history at the City University of New York. He is the author of a number of nonfiction books: Freud’s Megalomania (2000). The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (1992), The Invention of Memory: A New View of the Brain (1988).

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For his first exhibition in New York, Deeparture, Romanian born artist Mircea Cantor has, with his piece The Second Step, 2005, transformed the gallery into an indoor lunar landscape, including the print that Neil Armstrong's boot left on the surface of the moon as he became the first person to step on our only satellite. Upon entering the exhibition space the viewers will find themselves transported into this archetypal image of the modern age and the Cold War, the milestone event that in 1969 was hailed as the greatest feat ever tackled by humankind. By today the first moon landing seems an almost senseless endeavor; its promise of unbound planetary exploration and colonization has not yet been fulfilled, and most of us don't feel much closer to outer space than people did back then. Cantor seems to draw on that frustration, providing the gallery visitor with a tangible alternative that bypasses the constraints of space agency budgets. Using concrete, the humble material over which we travel on our everyday walks, the artist brings the frozen image of a collective memory into our lives, allowing us to reflect on the passage of time and providing the scenery of a faraway place from which to look at ourselves.

The rest of the exhibition is literally viewed from the platform of this distance. The two landscapes woven together in 2012, 2005 seem to signal the beginning and end of a day, but sunrises and sunsets are notoriously difficult to differentiate. It is also difficult to realize that one of these photographs was taken in Massada, Israel, and the other one was taken by the NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on May 19, 2005. The apparently innocent displacement of time and space that occurs in this work is nevertheless quite incisive, effectively merging the blue and red planets into one image. As the artist states: "time loses its power when is shown through static image, then an image can be sunset or sunrise depending how you relate to it. As a sunrise is a sunrise ONLY when you participate in real life to it.”. As in previous pieces, Cantor blurs the distinction between here and there, emphasizing the similarities of images, places and situations, rather than capitalizing on their differences.

This aspect of his work becomes quite relevant in the silent film piece Deeparture, 2005, in which the same gallery space is shared by a wolf and a deer, the expected slaughter of the deer in the jaws of the wolf is never fulfilled, leaving the audience with the uneasy feeling that their knowledge of the workings of hierarchy, nature and dominance are irremediably flawed. One can't help remembering the artistic landmark set by Joseph Beuys in 1974, when without setting foot on American soil (quite the contrary of Armstrong's feat), he was delivered wrapped in felt to René Block's gallery to share the space with a coyote for a week. Contrary to Beuys’ symbolic approach to the figures of the artist vis รก vis the wild animal, Cantor's piece dwells in the ambiguity of domestication, both of the natural world and the artistic space, bringing a sense of inconclusiveness to the confrontation.  Completing the trilogy of mineral, the animal and the vegetal, a group of Diamond Corns, 2005, scattered around the space bring together different notions of value: that of a basic food staple, essential to the upbringing and nourishing of a vast part of humanity, and the exorbitant prices commanded by the scarce diamond, a source not only of wealth but also of war and conflict. These two elements put together in a piece, seem to embody the contradictions and paradoxes of contemporary economics and trade. This simple image brings to mind the relative value of our everyday struggle for survival, be it on the level of simple alimentary needs, or on the fight for products of greed.

It has been suggested of Cantor’s work that he is running away, fleeing from somewhere, implying that as soon as the Romanian borders were opened he decided to take off on a frantic escape. On the contrary, Cantor has decided to see, to observe quietly, from his own distance, at his own rhythm and speed. Thus, the exhibition space has not only become a lunar landscape, it has also become silent, as if it was this state of mind, this separation, from which to better observe ourselves.

NEW YORK, NY 10001