The day before the Carnegie International opened, I pulled into the Mattress Factory to see Inner and Outer Space, an exhibition curated by Dara Meyers-Kingsley. (The Mattress Factory is a semi-kunsthalle located in a former industrial building on Pittsburgh’s North Side. It’s best known for its exhibition program and for its James Turrells.)
When I arrived at the museum, an attendant told me to take the elevator to an upper floor because the show started there. I obeyed. Upon exiting the elevator, I saw that the door to the gallery holding the ‘first’ artwork was closed. After a nod from another attendant, I opened the door and looked around. I saw nothing at eye level, which reminded me how conditioned art-lovers are to walk into a gallery and to quickly glance at each wall, looking for objects hung at about shoulder level. All I saw was a couple of large, bright windows. It was a nice sunny day and the trees outside were just beginning to turn a sickly spring green.
I knew there had to be something in the gallery, so I looked away from the view and discovered the work of art: a piece of molded plywood that had either been embedded into the floor, or that was lying on top of it. It was a well-machined bit of beige loveliness, nice but not extraordinary.
After I took my second step into the room my stomach fell into my shoes. The plywood whatchamacallit — the view above is equivalent to what I saw from just inside the door — magically transformed itself. It wasn’t a solid mass at all. The molded plywood wasn’t resting on the floor; it was a cut through it. The cut was so total that it went clear through the entire floor and directed my gaze outside the museum and into the backyard of one of the Mattress Factory’s neighbors. Just about the time I realized I’d been duped, my stomach returned to place. Even after I’d revealed Sarah Oppenheimer’s 610-3356 to myself, it left me staggered.
Related: The Mattress Factory’s blog has a nice post on Oppenheimer’s piece. Both photos are from the MF’s Flickr stream. The St. Louis Art Museum currently has an Oppenheimer on view as part of its ‘Currents’ series. David Bonetti reviewed the show and the St. Louis PBS station, KETC, featured it here.