After surveying Ryan Gander’s Intervals exhibition in the Aye Simon Reading Room at the Guggenheim Museum, I proceeded to take a quick snapshot of the wall text, for later reference. The young security guard sitting in the corner nearby quickly admonished me, stating that it was copyrighted and therefore, I was not allowed. I asked him whether it was actually part of the installation, and as one might imagine, the most banal conversation of “is it art/is it not art” ensued. I wondered if he was part of the work itself, since Gander had also produced a performance piece for The Generational: Younger than Jesus exhibition at the New Museum, in which the artist enlisted a security guard to police the galleries while dressed in a stigmated track suit.
Intervals consists of Frank Lloyd Wright books splattered on the reading tables with broken glass strewn about, supposedly the aftermath of architecture clashing with two artists’ (Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg) argument over whether the diagonal was a valid element of abstract art. It is a fantastically prosaic imagining of art history’s minor battles, where Gander plays revisionist. The room is a roped-off mess – though not quite messy enough. But then again, it is a bunch of Modernists.
Gander’s work involves a giant dose of reductive complexity touching upon little known or focused trivia and details of contemporary, past, and future life. The artist can be commended for his thorough follow-through of ideas that begin as minutiae, and gaps of information are left for the viewer to fill in. For this instance, leafing through the artist’s catalogues and other museum books that have also been casually un-tidied on a shelf.
As I flipped through the pages and learned a bit more about Gander, the security person could be heard talking to himself in an antagonistic tone of voice. Like gibberish in the distance, I was neither convinced of Intervals' ambition nor the sincerity of the museum help, but absorbed nonetheless.
~ Trong G. Nguyen
Images: Ryan Gander, On the subject of horizontals and verticals a ‘Bird-walk’ is added (The remnants of Theo and Piet’s fall from 1924 through Frank’s living room window at Taliesin, during a struggle brought on by an argument over the dynamic aspect of the diagonal line again), 2010 (detail). Stunt glass and antique window leading, dimensions variable. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Lisson Gallery, London. Installation view: Intervals: Ryan Gander, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 1, 2010–January 9, 2011. Photo: Kris McKay. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; Photo of Intervals wall text in the Guggenheim reading room, 2010. Photo: Hannes Bend.