Installation view, No Place Like Home, Greene Naftali, New York, 2021
This exhibition brings together seminal works made by Greene Naftali artists around the time of the gallery’s founding in the 1990s. As pandemic-era restrictions continue to lift, New York’s reopening marks a chance to reflect back on a year that many spent largely at home. Emerging from this period of relative confinement—in which both venturing out and staying in became newly fraught—this group exhibition reconsiders our attachments to home in all its complexities. Free of the nostalgia and sentimentality that so often cling to the domestic sphere, these works challenge clichéd notions of one’s living space as a respite or a locus of identity. They offer a countervision of home as a contested site to be analyzed, questioned, and reframed.
Installed as a large-scale projection as it was originally presented at Greene Naftali, in 1996, Lucy Gunning’s Climbing Around My Room features a young woman in a red dress scaling the walls and furniture of a white room, never touching the floor. A handheld camera follows sympathetically, capturing her movement from various angles and zooming in on moments of particularly strenuous body-room contact. Taking the measure of the humble space—as if to somehow master it—Gunning’s work explores the coterminous boundary of physical limitation and psychological depth.
The fifty-nine works on paper in Candy Jernigan’s Untitled (Vessels) depict small containers: tender portraits of pitchers, mason jars, medicine droppers, a martini glass. Formed over watery grounds of blue, grey, ochre, and yellow, the vessels are slight yet assertive, casting shadows and carving out space for themselves amidst a field of color. Each receptacle sits on a tabletop or sill, some framed by the suggestion of parted curtains, lending a degree of theatricality to Jernigan’s careful studies into the lives of domestic objects.
Lutz Bacher’s Snow records the view from an East Village apartment during a winter storm. The camera rocks and pans gently as the snow falls, changing direction with the wind, and the silhouette of the World Trade Center in the distance fades in and out of view. A sharp cut and the momentary appearance of a cat disrupts the languid pace, playfully treading the line between video art and home video.
In Julie Becker’s photo series The Same Room, a cell-like interior is dressed and redressed in colorful wallpaper, rugs, and a lone piece of furniture. Despite their richly patterned surfaces, the spaces all feel more empty than full, existing a transient state of unfinish that breeds anxiety. Becker’s 1910 West Sunset Blvd is a reasonable facsimile of a particular patch of sidewalk, found outside the defunct California Federal Bank in the artist’s neighborhood. The painted concrete slab is replete with marks and articles of a forgotten past. At the time of the work’s conception, the bank held the title to Becker’s apartment, and charged her a reduced rent to the bank on the condition that she dispose of the belongings left behind by the former tenant.
John Knight’s contribution contains fragments of advertising copy and typography lifted from 1970s editions of the Los Angeles Times real estate supplement. Free of context, Knight’s chosen phrases—“SUCCESS,” “Easy Elegance,” “Genuine Malibu”—distill the manufactured desire that fuels American consumer culture. Produced in an era of rampant suburbanization, the cited texts peg both the aspirational quality of home ownership and the structural inequalities that attend it.
Tony Cokes’s video The Book of Love presents documentary-style segments, in which the artist’s mother muses on love, money, and death. The frame she occupies is frequently cropped, and her account is punctuated with commentary and questions, delivered via scrolling text. In the tension generated by the conflicting subjectivities of the speaker and her interlocutor (who remains unseen), Cokes considers the levels of mediation implicit in our most intimate relationships.