"Kessler’s Circus" places the viewer inside the American war machine. An army tent pitched inside the gallery housed mechanical sculptures and barracks stacked with video monitors. The work depicts the American military-industrial complex as a macabre circus, traveling from country to country, exporting atrocities under the veil of democracy. Rather than simply presenting a mediated spectacle, the artist indicts the audience in the violence. Surrounded by handmade mechanisms and surveillance cameras, the viewer becomes part of the machine. There is an induced sense of vertigo and a surge of paranoia, as the viewer’s own face appears in the video feed. Entering Kessler’s Circus, one is immersed in an undefined state, conflating machine and spectacle with entertainment and horror.
"Kessler’s Circus" updates and politicizes the experience of “Calder’s Circus.” Following the tradition of performative mechanized sculpture, Kessler created a playful format for his exploration of our modern war experience. The mischievous nature of Kessler’s hand belies a dark violence that is at once captivating and frightening. The business of death as mediated spectacle exposes anxieties and complacencies concerning surveillance, propaganda, and our ravenous consumption of celebrity.
Novelist Siri Hustvedt writes: “Jon Kessler’s work turns the world inside out. Entering his installation, the viewer cannot keep a safe distance from the spectacle of war. They cannot turn away, trapped within an infernal machinery of projection, reflection, and ultimately, hallucination. To enter the work is to enter the body of a mechanized monster, at once familiar and alien, whose internal organs have been exposed by a gaping wound.”
Known for large-scale kinetic sculptures and video installations, Kessler has been mining our mass media’s infatuation with disaster, war, and titillation since the 1980s. A recent development in Kessler’s oeuvre is the introduction of two-dimensional works into his installations. Portraits made from magazines, pigment and paper pulp, and photographs manipulated without a camera surround the circus. The installation itself could be seen as a portrait of America, a distorted mirror that exposes the country’s dark side.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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