Lauren Seiden, Reflections in a Void (2016)
Shows that opened within a few weeks of November 11, 2016 had a lot to bear. Notices for openings were accompanied with phrases like “let’s be together in these hard times” and “i’d like to see the people i love rn”. It was (and remains) impossible to see any work without this new veil of terror, and not many shows matched the unforeseen challenge; not their fault.
Although wild, sensitive, and sometimes dark, none of the works in 315 Gallery’s exhibition Beholder’s Share hit the despairing, fathomless lows required—except Lauren Seiden’s Reflections in a Void. (The name helps.)
The work is a 4.5-foot square frame of white marble, four inches tall, lined with a second plexi square that holds a pool of water. In it, Seiden floats graphite dust, which collects and hangs together on the surface in the dark stylings of Batman. It looks like marble, but meaner. Some graphite sinks, covering the bottom in a complete darkness that foregoes the conclusion of reaching any actual bottom. It looks terrifying, and it’s all-consuming: it’s both the thing that ties everything in the show together and the thing that rejects everything else as useless.
But not completely useless; if it weren’t for Ezra Tessler’s sweet pastel accordion paintings and Mark Starling’s dripping, candy-colored half-coffin, all lifting off the wall and into third (fourth?!) dimensions, the slanting darkness and plumbless dimensions of Seiden’s void wouldn’t be quite so pronounced. Caitlin Macbride’s painting Wood Carving Tools—angular, floating in space—is the closest approximation of what we might need to access Seiden’s pool. It’s the perfect bridge.
Caitlin Macbride, Wood Carving Tools (2014)
The pool isn’t playful or ironic at first, but Jack Barrett (curator and owner of 315 Gallery) let me touch it, and it briefly became both. If you stick your finger in the void the clouds of graphite scatter and your finger stands alone, reflecting itself (the upside-down backwardness is like the flip we all felt, or what it feels like every time Trump tweets or calls Taiwan or…). I sit next to the pool, poking it, while Barrett explains (on a practical note) that Seiden works with powdered graphite quite a bit in her studio, and he can imagine a coffee cup left unattended, gathering dust, turning into the prototype.
Barrett’s dog sometimes sits in the light at the gallery—it’s a second-level space in downtown Brooklyn, literally above the fray, and distinguished by a relaxed, deliberate approach to curation. Seiden’s floating drawing was the dog’s favorite, too: Barrett spent most of our visit keeping Lola from lapping at the edges of the void.
Beholder’s Share is on view through December 22 at 312 Livingston Street. No, the number doesn’t match the gallery name.