Escape Artist: Cindy Shermans clown series, on view now at Apex Art, was a direct, albeit abstract response to 9/11
Grief, revisited: Apex Arts multifaceted response to 9/11
By Rachel Breitman
For art critic and Columbia University philosophy professor emeritus Arthur C. Danto, displaying aspects of the human response to September 11th meant departing from the expected.
In the exhibit he helped curate at Apex Art in Tribeca, Danto asked artists to contribute their own personal responses to the tragedy, even though many reflected more about the internal responses of the artist than the historical event that inspired them.
I was not interested in documents of 9/11, and certainly not interested in images that assaulted the viewer, like people jumping to their deaths, said Danto, 81, who had written an article in the Nation about the important symbols of the shrines created by artists and average New Yorkers. The pieces in his exhibit focus on the combination of alienated sorrow and an overt desire to reconnect, repair, and make a fractured city whole again.
Some of the pieces show the literal revisiting of what was lost, with photographs by Jeffrey Logan copying the pictures of the missing that had decorated Manhattan street corners in the months after the tragedy. In Logans pieces, the weather-torn, now-anonymous photos show their age, with messages and names often obfuscated by wear. Logan described his desire to rescue the imagesto halt their effacement.
Lucio Pozzis photographs also seek to capture an ephemeral moment after the towers fell before it was entirely lost. His print series is of the dark cloud that rose above the city after the destruction, tracking time through the passing and changing shape of the dark sky.
Other artists chose not to reflect the concrete images of loss, but instead the internal manifestations of mourning. Cindy Shermans psychedelically colored clown photo from 2002 shows the sadness that lurked behind a recovered New York, with her protruding buckteeth seeming to bite back tears. In R.R. Zakanitchs lace paintings, he uses abstract symbolism to hint at the potential for mending cultural tears into a new, connected human fabric.
Its both very real and very surreal, said Candace Pastorelli, 23, and art student who viewed the exhibit. I think I will really need to think about it more, she added.
Leslie King Hammonds shrine that covers one corner of the room also brought up the more recent events in New Orleans with the framed writing of Andrei Codrescu entitled Love Note To New Orleans. With her Caribbean statuettes, American flags, clipped newspaper condolences, collections of beach shells, candles incense, and tiny rum bottles, she brings prayers for the lost towers and a drowned city.
As controversy grows around the plans to build a memorial at Ground Zero, Danto hoped the spirit of his show might help mend the alliances that once united the city right after the terrorist act.
The fourth anniversary had no special significance. It was when I was ready to do the show, said Danto. But I felt that the spirit of 9/11 had been abraded and worn down, with all the infighting over Ground Zero, and this show I hoped would revive the spirit of the time when we were all in it together, trying to cope.