curated by Anais Horn, Eilert Asmervik and Felix Kindermann
Dec 17–21, 2022
The Grand Chelsea
270 W 17th street
Anaïs Horn–Apt. 20 C
New York City
In a private, 20th-floor Chelsea apartment offering panoramic views of Manhattan from north to southwest, curious contradictions serve as substrate for the group exhibition Afterglow. Built in 1989, when America's neo-liberal economy seemed unstoppable, a popcorn roof crowns the wide windows that let light flood in day and night, acting both as borders and transmitters between the outside and the inside life. Elevated in the sky, the domestic space hosts no ghosts but promotes the illusion of detachment from street-level urban realities. In its attempt at simultaneous isolation and accessibility the apartment sets the tone in which the presented works oscillate around the private and the public, connection and alienation, intimacy and distance.
Afterglow featured works by:
Lina Viste Grønli
Brittany Adeline King
Patrick Carlin Mohundro
and a text by Wendy Vogel.
Arriving from my university picket line in semi-darkness, I find a suspended animation in the golden hour 20 floors above the street. A warm, buttery glow bathes the foyer, kitchen and faces. It turns the balcony into a series of dazzling peachy planes. I’m told this artist-residency apartment has been occupied by photographers up to now — “painters of light,” as the old philosophers of the medium are quick to recall. The rakish shadows render the building, constructed in the high era of postmodernism, as a reverse architectural drawing.
In the afterglow, light is fickle. It pulls away from its brief embrace with 17th Street, escalating in its drama as it moves downtown. The hues deepen: honey, amber, saffron, apricot, tangerine, burnt sienna. (Shades of yellow are naturally associated with the gustatory.)
The fiery tongue flirts with the edges of the skyscrapers that have faded into the blue-on-gray cityscape. Now unabashedly crimson, it caresses the top of the tallest towers, those monuments to hubris. The glint burns brightest in these final moments. If I blink, I might miss this fleeting rendezvous between the built landscape and the fading sun, before the interior lights take over, before millions of shimmering studs sketch the night’s skyline we know by heart from films and TV.
A last gasp: The sun skims the Hudson, winks, and sinks below the surface.
Luxury is equated with this view, this light from the high-rise vantage point. Despite (because?) of my middle-class origins, I secretly delight in puzzling out the secret codes of status as an intellectual game. I fancy myself a casual Bourdieusian. Maybe I’m only a classic Gemini. In New York, such status seems to reside on the surface, when in fact it remains still tucked away in interiors: a chic address, the right venue, furnishings and accessories that transmit a sense of upward mobility. On trend without being on the nose. If you know, you know. In the art world, some shitty-seeming places accrue a mythos for their authenticity — a shuttered second-floor Chinese restaurant in the Financial District that allowed smoking, or the old red-sauce joint Forlini’s near the Manhattan courthouse. I imagine the five-borough map as a sentimental topography, divided and crossed by many microniches.
A friend of mine came back to New York after a summer break with her family in her home country. She told me, “The restaurants here really know how to do lighting.” I know what she means. I love how the city turns into a series of jewel boxes in the months of wintry darkness. I count the Christmas trees in the windows of big, ugly condos in my Williamsburg neighborhood. I hardly saw trees for sale around here ten years ago. The explosion of ad-hoc markets for them must be a tertiary pandemic effect. Even in a newer-built Brooklyn apartment, a big, live tree is an indulgence. Minimalism is also, mostly, an indulgence — the art of prioritizing space over things; the conscious act of exposing architecture’s “good bones.”
I think the city is in the throes of an identity crisis. (When is it not?) Metabolizing the lessons of the ongoing pandemic, the consciousness about deep-seated injustices, inward reflection and looming recession against a propulsion to always look outward, make up the losses, go harder, escape our confines. Earlier this year I heard about the burgeoning “night luxe” aesthetic and sneered, then I heard about the return of “indie sleaze” and felt old. The afterglow in this glass-filled apartment is soft and dreamy, a syrupy drip of time. Humming at its edges are the tensions between interior and exterior, urbanity and domesticity, staying and leaving, comfort and claustrophobia.
Installation views: Marc Tatti