The last time we wrote about Doug Aitken, it was to talk about his sprawling video and iPad installation, Altered Earth. This month, Aitken is back with 100 YRS, a collection of sculptures that are just as filmic as Altered Earth, though they contain no moving images.
At Chelsea’s 303 Gallery, Aitken—or more likely, his studio assistants—have drilled a massive hole through the concrete floor. The hole dominates the space; it seems bottomless, thanks to the milky water that fills it ("as if imbued and chemically altered by its aural properties," writes the gallery). A few feet away, chunks of concrete and mottled rebar are piled against the wall—evidence of the manual labor that went on before 100 YRS opened.
A lattice of metal pipes hanging over the pool dispenses single drops of water from its spigots every few seconds. A mic amplifies the sound of the droplets hitting the surface of the water, turning the piece, which Aitken calls Sonic Fountain, into a kind of ambient instrument. Around the hole, seven other sculptural works hang. Most of them are typographic: Sunset (black) is made from foam and epoxy and looks like the moon’s surface; More is comprised of shattered mirrors; and Art, which is the real barn burner of the works—is three plexiglass letters rigged up so that a brown liquid spews over their edges like mud or chocolate. It smells like latex paint. There’s a kind of synesthesia that occurs with each piece, where the meaning of the words and the material they’re made from bounce off each other like sound waves.
To a certain extent, 100 YRS defies description, at least in several hundred words. Even the 303 Gallery seems to splutter wonderingly at the work, using phrases like "cosmic debris," "obfuscated by detritus of the age of post-everything," and "aspirational escapism" in its very well-written statement. These works walk a line between film, high art, pop culture, and land art that makes them difficult to pin down. You could talk about Ed Ruscha’s typographic paintings, or Judd’s work with acrylic. Hell, you could even invoke Carsten Höller’s New Museum-wrecking slides. But ultimately, 100 YRS is Aitken’s own, a strange and earnest exercise in experience. One of the pieces, called Not Enough Time in the Day, functions as a conclusion: Make some time, and go check out the show—on until March 23—for yourself.