Being at home has taken on a new meaning in the last 13-months. Conceptions of work-life balance have slowly been whittled away given many of the new challenges that have presented themselves amidst COVID-19. This larger concept of home is being unpacked in the current exhibition on view at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea. The group show features several art world heavy hitters such as – Alex Da Corte, Thomas Demand, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Lucien Freud, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Charles Ray and Ken Price. While many of these artists and their practices may seem at odds normally, they have come together here in an almost perfect formulation. The common thread that ties all of the works together is considering the larger space of home and domesticity and what that looks like through each of their unique perspectives on “Home Life.”
What does home look like to each of these artists? And how has the concept of home changed in this current space and time? These are the two questions I kept returning to while viewing “Home Life.” While many people have been sheltering in place for over a year in some instances, the concept of home may seem a bit overdone. However, within the context of this latest show at Matthew Marks, home gets a remake and is looked at with fresh eyes. The show, which takes its name from a series of Lucian Freud pen and ink drawings, is really helping to consider what domesticity is and does.
In Robert Gober’s brilliant 2020 piece Window, Curtain, Matches, he has fashioned a mini window scene within the gallery space. Complete with a weathered window frame containing glass, and paper-cut out snowflakes that have been taped to it, an almost empty matchbook, and curtains that have been fashioned from epoxy. Gober in his meticulous style has created a winter scene akin to what you might expect to find looking out his studio window.
There is a level of craftsmanship and painstaking detail that Gober brings to all of his works and can be found in this latest piece. Gober’s fabricated window scene within the gallery becomes a poetic gesture for something outside of himself –– a vignette on a scene from life. It is a literal window into another space and also seems to be about longing and loss. Window, Curtain, Matches is tapping into a larger sense of collective grief that has come to be a part of this time and how it has been experienced globally and individually.
Within Gina at Bruce’s dinner party, NYC (1991), by Nan Goldin, the domestic space is considered in another way. Gina sits at a small table, clad in a lime green short sleeved sweater shirt and stonewash blue jeans. A small bit of her waist is exposed from the shirt, her hair is piled high on top of her half up bun and the rest cascades over her shoulders and thick bangs. Her red lips pursed as she stared into space avoiding direct eye contact with the camera’s angle as she appeared to be playing with the food on her plate. A red checkered table cloth and large bouquet of lilacs in a large blue vase and a bowl of fruit sit beside her.
This domestic scene brings up larger questions of intimacy, longing, and leaves the viewer to wonder what the larger circumstances are behind Bruce and Gina’s life. Goldin’s prolific career has been deeply invested in documenting these kinds of moments particularly within the LGBTQ+ community in Boston and New York City in the 1980s and 90s, and Gina at Bruce’s dinner party, NYC falls squarely within the exploration of this larger subject matter. Goldin’s work also explores topics around gender, sexuality, violence, drug use, and subcultures. This specific photo also calls into question the issue of loneliness and isolation becomes something new in this specific moment. Also, to spend so much time in one’s own space sometimes means new space has to be created, literally and figuratively.
Another work that explores the monotony of everyday life is the clever Clothing Pile, (2020) by Charles Ray. Like Gober, Ray’s attention to detail borders on obsessive. For the last three decades Ray has created sculptural works that are recreations of objects he has a relationship to or an affinity for. Clothing Pile is no exception and is the first piece you encounter when you enter the gallery space. There is playfulness and humor about this piece given what it is––a literal pile of clothes that has been cast in aluminum. Upon closer inspection of it there are more details that become obvious. Things such as the crease of pant legs, the stitching of a hem, the outline of pockets, belt loops, and more are all there cast in aluminum. The everyday clothes pile everyone has in their homes is transformed. The stark whiteness of the aluminum is in direct opposition to the polished stone floors of the gallery. The piece folds into itself and depending on the time of day, there are ways that it creates and casts different kinds of shadows as it comes into contact with light.
In typical Ray fashion, this piece becomes about the object itself but then becomes something else through his creative process. The level of detail and intensity of this piece is reminiscent of his 2007 sculpture Hinoki in which he painstaking recreated a fallen tree he discovered along a highway in California.
“Home Life” is helping to rethink banal domestic spaces and the elements that make it up. It is about reexamining the quotidian and looking beyond it to create something more in this space and time. While it is unsure what a post-pandemic life will look like, for now, “Home Life” is keeping art goers in the present and focused on what the everyday can offer.
“Home Life” is on view at Matthew Marks Gallery until March 20 2021.