Friday, April 11, 2008

Andrew Kreps Gallery: “Peter Coffin: You Are Me”

Peter Coffin’s third solo exhibition at the Andrew Kreps Gallery welcomes you in with a suite of prints, Untitled (Designs for Colby Poster Co.), each one defined by three bright colors merging into each other. Traditionally the prints serve as the background for posters such as those promoting rock concerts and revivals, but Coffin has chosen to highlight the color combinations as a design in and of themselves. As a result, the office of Andrew Preps is festively surrounded in color, setting the mood for the playful exhibit that follows. Color, in fact, defines the other two pieces on show at the gallery. In the main room, an industrial conveyor reminiscent of a miniature rollercoaster carries a bunch of colorful balloons through space. The noisy and heavy metal conveyor contrasts the light and brightly colored balloons. Apparently, at the end of each day the balloons are carried to the street and released, as though freed after a day of work. Although visually the piece is powerful, it is somewhat saddening that an artist as interested in nature as Coffin should commit the faux pas of releasing helium and plastic into the atmosphere for the duration of his exhibit.

The balloons are not the only part of the exhibit to leave the interior of the gallery. Coffin has created a sound installation that plays Incidental Music each time office staff hits a key on a computer keyboard. The sound is then played outside the gallery through a speaker on top of the entrance. (Unfortunately the installation was not working when I was there.) Another part of the installation involves small sounds played in the background of a conversation when someone calls the gallery (you can give it a try: 212 741 8849). Both these installations are interesting as they reflect the artists’ involvement in the space in which he is exhibiting as well as in the interaction of the gallery with its viewers and neighbors.

The most mesmerizing work on exhibit, however, can be found in the back room of the gallery. There, thirty monitors piled on top of each other in five rows of six, display video clips of animals at play in both domestic and wild settings. The monitor wall is extremely colorful and constantly changing, as each clip appears and disappears at different time intervals. Some of the images are incredible: dolphins playing with their own air bubbles, monkeys cartwheeling their way down the side of a hill, a turtle chasing a cat over and over again. The piece is seductive and critical at once. On one hand, the animals look beautiful and playful, enjoying themselves both in the wild and in captivity. Yet the monitors are reminiscent of the cages in which we contain these animals, as well as of the anthropomorphic mental frame of mind through which we are used to looking at them. The rhythm of the clips showing in different monitors and the variety of the animals and movement on display, capture the viewer into a frenzy of scopophilic pleasure, and the artist cleverly overwhelms us with images so that the pleasure is never comfortable.

In his exhibit, Coffin creates different worlds of contemplation that are at once formally satisfying and critically engaged. The space at Andrew Kreps gives the viewer a chance to become immersed in each world and take the time necessary to engage with the rhythm and length of each piece. Coffin’s use of color and movement is captivating, make sure to set aside some time to just sit down and contemplate.

Andrew Kreps Gallery
Through April 26, 2008

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