LOST on the Lower East Side

From L to R: Marianne Vitale, "Model for Burning Bridge (1)" (2011), reclaimed lumber, 68 x 18 x 22; Yamini Nayar, "Strange Event" (2009), c-print, 30 x 40; Leah Beeferman, "Journey into the unknown machines attempt a construction of the skies" (2010), digital animation with sound (All photos by author)

Some people look at the world and imagine it will all disappear. The sun expands into a red giant and consumes the Earth, charring everything away. Technology overtakes humanity and the rational shapes of geometry replace the uncertainty of modern life. The frenetic urban canyons of New York are deserted into a steel ghost town. It’s possible to obsess endlessly over the possibilities for the annihilation of our world. But rather than brood on doomsday prophecies and environmental apocalypses, why not turn some of that paranoia into art?

Leah Beeferman, "Untitled graph space (spacetime)" (detail) 2010, ink and graphite on paper, 19 x 24

In LOST at Invisible-Exports, Amy Smith-Stewart has curated a decidedly ominous group show that packs a lot of foreboding into the narrow gallery space. This is Smith-Stewart’s sixth in her series of roving shows for her gallery of the same name with no permanent address.

The somber art in LOST does have a nomadic air about it, like a quiet, mysterious stranger that suddenly turned up among the vibrant and busy Lower East Side. Unsurprisingly, the artists in LOST (Leah Beeferman, Yeon Jin Kim, Michelle Lopez, Yamini Nayar and Marianne Vitale) went for shady colors when contemplating the end of human existence.

Marianne Vitale, "Model for Burning Bridge (1)" (2011), reclaimed lumber, 68 x 18 x 22

Luckily, none of the art is terribly literal. The closest LOST gets to a direct scene of an apocalypse is Marianne Vitale’s Model for Burning Bridge (1), which is a striking structure built from reclaimed  lumber. It looks like a bridge in Madison County seared with napalm.

Leah Beeferman, "Graph space (dim)" (detail) (2011), graphite and laser etch on aluminum, 12 x 20

Alongside it on the walls are Leah Beeferman’s laster-etched graphite works whose double medium gives them unexpected layers when viewed up close. In each is a lurking a math ghost: the outlines of geometry or white imprint of a graph. In the murky world Beeferman has created, these sharp forms are the new icons of a world floating in space, with no people in sight. This idea comes to life, or as much life as a machine can have, in Befferman’s digital animation Journey into the unknown machines attempt at a construction of the skies where strange devices blink as if attempting to mimic stars or satellites.

Michelle Lopez, "Your Board" (2010), maple plywood, grip tape, steel

Michelle Lopez has two intriguing works, one entitled Your Board that looks like a skinned skateboard and a poor melted C-3P0 sculpture. Both are eerie in their casual destruction, relics of some unknown fatal force. I was also unsettled by Yeon Jin Kim’s video Dreams 2: Migration, where sketches of a serene, suburban landscape pass before drawn open windows, where suddenly there appears a dead dog sprawled in the street. Yamini Nayar’s photographs are similarly unnerving, with scenes that at first seem like familiar spaces, maybe an empty attic, while on closer inspection they become disorienting as you try to make sense of the quietly tumultuous jumble of objects. It’s the kind of disorder you might find after a storm.

L to R: Works by Leah Beeferman, Michelle Lopez, and Marianne Vitale

I do wish that the exhibit had gone a further into a more chilling presentation of end of the world obsessions. It’s more a taste of individual dark fantasies than a full blown Armageddon. Yet the lack of uncertainty in each of the artist’s work is like getting a doomsday flier from a stranger on the corner. Am I completely convicted at that moment of that person’s grim view? No, but their assured prophecy will stay with me as I walk down the block, even under a sun so bright it seems like it will never be extinguished.

LOST continues at Invisible-Exports (14A Orchard Street) through July 30.

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