Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out.

still from Cake Walk

Kate Gilmore made me cry when I visited her studio in August. I've been able to give this form of immediate artist feedback only once before, when John Oswald approached me during his jaw-dropping show at Jack Shainman a few years ago. Gilmore was showing me an involving piece, Anything . . ., she had created during a residency in Dijon, France the month before. I don't want to give too much away because it's going to be in her show at Peirogi that opens on November 17. So, without getting too specific Gilmore builds something and--like so many of her most effective pieces (Which is to say pretty much all of them)--the work enters the viewers body through an arc. I became completely and helplessly engrossed in where she was going and how she was going to get there. What brought tears to my eyes though was her final gesture in the piece, at once pulling me in further and letting me go, spinning me away. For a few minutes the artist's arc had become my own, and I was suddenly left with all the glorious refractions and reflections that flowed from that moment. I was all kinds of overwhelmed, and I was happy that the artist was sitting next to me when it happened.

still from Every Girl Loves Pink

Another telling reaction that afternoon was Gilmore's own while we were watching Heart Breaker, one of the two videos included in a group show opening tonight at Mary Boone's uptown gallery. In the video the artist takes a hatchet to a large heart sculpted from lumber. Flailing away, Gilmore takes apart the heart following an unpredictable path that owes as much to what she wants to accomplish as it does to the laws of gravity. At one point while we were watching Gilmore flinched as she remembered how close she had been to serious physical harm at a certain point in the process. There was no flinching on the screen though. She just kept plugging away with a single-mindedness that was frightening, hilarious, and instructive. Splinters may come. Blood may come. Sweat will overstay it's welcome. Love hurts. Deal with it. Tear it down. What remains?

still from Double Dutch

Well, beauty for one thing. Gilmore's videos are replete with it. As extreme as they can be, beauty is often their anchor. Sometimes it's a mess. Sometimes it's a clean line. But beauty is always there, holding down the planks, throwing the tomatoes. The more I viewed her work the more I realized what a brilliant colorist Gilmore has become as her work has progressed.

Watching Gilmore's videos is like watching someone eat their own heart. It's nourishing and fatal at the same time. The extremes can provoke hilarity. The work is as likely to lead to uproarious laughter as it is to tears and awe. Everything is possible. When an artist pushes this hard--and this well--through a wall, it's best to just follow them and see what's on the other side. Don't even hesitate.

In the studio . . .

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