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New York
Michael Portnoy
Sculpture Center
44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, NY 11101
May 4, 2008 - July 28, 2008

Michael Portnoy's Casino Royale
by Elana Rubinfeld


Casino Ilinx, Michael Portnoy’s solo show at SculptureCenter, consists of cryptic gambling tables and related sculptures that delve into gambling’s roots in divination and ritual.

Although there are elements of a traditional casino on hand, - i.e. bouncers, croupiers, and players - nothing is as it seems. Upon entering, one first encounters Tongue Pit (Linguistic Table), a game played within a perimeter of black sand and consisting of  black geometric shaped objects referencing “alphabet fragments inspired from disappeared or endangered languages.”  Glass dice are rolled to determine the possible arrangements that the artist calls “architectronic morphemes.” Though structured, it is a language that has essentially been deconstructed by Portnoy, fragmented into the form of playful games that have an undertone of menace. 

Similarly, lo-tech casino tables made of mirror, shells, brass, vinyl, and wood are marked with indecipherable lines and configurations, where blue figurine pieces, ticket stubs, and money are exchanged while sentried by an odd white ceramic man in a trench coat, standing next to a column that may very well serve as a glorified paper towel dispenser. Lines of blue color pigment are laid out on an asymmetric sheet of glass, ready for the high rollers. Several women take turns in the role of croupier, yelling instructions at players and making up rules on the spot. Some will “win,” some will get banished, and some will be sent to a stretch limo outside, completely outfitted with LED lights and glamorous partiers.

Moving further along, one encounters more gambling tables, cluttered rooms and other sculptural objects of devotion that include a squirrel with “x-ray eyes” and a moving wooden stringed die, tugging the viewer along on a little ride.

Known for his performances that take miscommunication and “the poetics of humor” one step beyond, Portnoy's installation involves numerous detours and gestures that engage the viewer in a series of intimate, dysfunctional and absurd interactions. Ilinx is a category of play that sociologist Roger Caillois describes as an "attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind." Mission accomplished.

For additional performances and event schedule, please visit the SculptureCenter website.

*All images courtesy Michael Portnoy and SculptureCenter.

Posted by Elana Rubinfeld on 5/4/08

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