From the utopian ambitions of the modernist movement to the overlooked details of daily experience, Ryan Gander’s work ranges across a dizzying spectrum of forms and ideas. His meticulously researched projects—which have included such diverse conceptual gestures as an invented word, a chess set, a television script, and a children’s book—engage familiar historical narratives and cultural paradigms only to unravel their structures and assumptions, presenting elusive scenarios that abound with interpretive potential.
As part of the museum’s Intervals series, Gander has created a new, site-specific installation in the Aye Simon Reading Room, a small library and study space located on Rotunda Level 2. Here visitors encounter a scene of apparent catastrophe that relates to Gander’s ongoing exploration of the schism between the Dutch artists Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) and Theo van Doesburg (1883–1931). These friends and creative collaborators severed their relationship in 1924 due to van Doesburg’s belief in the diagonal line as a valid element in abstract art, which conflicted with Mondrian’s insistence on a reductive visual language consisting of only gridded horizontals and verticals. Gander imagines this artistic dogmatism provoking a violent struggle between the two men that sends them crashing through a stained-glass window in the home of Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect of the Guggenheim Museum. In a mysterious temporal and spatial discontinuity, the debris from this accident has landed in the Reading Room, showering fragments of glass and lead over the books about Wright’s life and work that are customarily available in the space. Accompanying this relic from the annals of art history is an artifact that has been transported to the museum from the future: a “quarter centi-dollar” representing the inflated worth of a contemporary quarter to $25 by the year 2032, that has been glued to the floor in reference to a classic practical joke.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Public Art Fund’s commission of a major new sculpture by Gander, The Happy Prince, currently on view at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 60th street. The leadership committees for the Intervals series and Intervals: Ryan Gander are gratefully acknowledged.