A Shadow as Big as a Hat
Nicelle Beauchene Gallery is pleased to present A Shadow As Big As A Hat, the first New York solo show of video by Jonathan Ehrenberg.
Inspired by early German Expressionist films of the 1920s and 30s, the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Japanese folktales, Ehrenberg’s meandering and elaborate narratives encompass a visual style heavily influenced by the orchestrated compositions and dramatic lighting of F. W. Murnau’s Faust, and Fritz Lang’s M and Metropolis. Setting his scenes with claustrophobic interiors and stark long views, Ehrenberg creates enigmatic territories where temporal and physical laws become suspended, and his protagonists explore surreal and inexplicable events that yield no apparent moral. Paying homage to the ‘cinemagician’ Georges Melies, who is credited with the development of stop trick, multiple exposure and time-lapse photography, Ehrenberg’s in-camera special effects offer elaborate windows for his fictions to revolve and transform through uncanny distortions of time and place.
Addressing themes of transformation and metamorphosis, the exhibition’s central work, Seed, borrows from Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose with its portrayal of a man whose body begins to slowly shed its pieces. As his identity slips away, he seeks help from a shamanistic healer who is able to restore the man’s physical body, albeit with an unsettling new corporeality. Evoking feelings of disembodiment and loss of self, Seed explores supernatural states of reverie through manipulated montages and a tragic story that romances as much as it disturbs.
In the gallery’s Video Lounge downstairs, Ehrenberg has two earlier works on view: Moth and The Blue Hand. Inspired by The Man-Moth by Elizabeth Bishop, Moth follows three moth-like figures drawn to differing light sources, each misunderstanding the structure of the physical world. In The Blue Hand Ehrenberg creates characters based on masks that he made as a child and follows them as they become lost in an artificial forest, undergoing trials and transformations to parlay empathic response.
Jonathan Ehrenberg received his BA from Brown and his MFA from Yale University. His work has been included in exhibitions internationally, including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, Earl McGrath Gallery, New York, Futura Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, and the Galeria Espacio Minimo, Madrid. Ehrenberg lives and works in New York.