Finding the Third Dimension on Sixth Street: The Brant Foundation

When I think of the Brant Foundation, I think of a bucolic field and a restored barn-like structure in backcountry Greenwich. But the Brant’s newest exhibition space — on East 6th Street in Manhattan — is an ode to urban living. From the restored former ConEdison substation to the monumental works held within the building’s walls, the space stands in stark contrast to the original Brant Foundation (which is currently being renovated and set to reopen in spring 2020).

Spanning five floors and offering up stunning vistas of the city’s skyline, this new location opened with a blockbuster Basquiat exhibit in March. Its second exhibition, Third Dimension, which opened on November 13th, features over twenty artists central to Peter M. Brant’s collection, including several pieces that are on public display for the first time. The show focuses on sculpture and installation, making brilliant use of the East Village building, which was most recently the studio of artist and sculptor Walter De Maria.

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Each floor of Third Dimension houses various installations and sculptures, every piece completely different from the next, and yet a sense of cohesiveness echoes throughout. Cady Noland’s works on the last floor felt like a nod to, if not a riff off of, the Warhol Brillo Boxes displayed on the top floor (where you begin your visit). What’s more, the Urs Fischer in the last room is a literal copy of Giambologna’s 16th Century Rape of the Sabine Women. The only difference is that Fischer’s sculpture is made of wax, but carefully caste to look like marble. Each morning, a system of wicks at the very top of the sculpture is lit, and the material melts down over the course of the day. During my visit, chunks of wax littered the surrounding floor area, left to accentuate the cursory nature of art. Nothing lasts forever, and this piece will endure for just a brief moment in time. A docent explained to me that Fischer has authorized the work to be recast a total of three times, after which it will belong to the category of ‘what-once-was’ (and the many Instagram feeds it graces, of course).

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Untitled (The Rape of the Sabine Women) (2011) Urs Fischer

Another notable detail of the Foundation space is an ‘aquarium skylight‘ that doubles as a rooftop reflecting pool. The 120-square-foot skylight, put in by the building’s architect Gluckman Tang, is both reminiscent of James Turrell’s Skyspace at MomaPS1, and also something I kind of want in my own home. There were a lot of neon words on display (thanks to Jason Rhoades), a monumental Julian Schnabel painting entitled The Sea, and a Carl André floor installation.

If the third dimension is a quality that adds depth to an object, then we can view this exhibit as something that argues for art as an entity with depth — in many senses of the word — instead of a flat canvas on a wall. Even the paintings in the show had texture, with Schnabel’s abstract seascape literally protruding into space. Art, in this case, is something to be interacted with, as we interact with our three-dimensional world each day, instead of a thing to be hung up and stared at. All the while, we notice a constant referral back in time, as Noland winks at Warhol and Fischer copies Giambologna; three-dimensional art becomes a conversation across the ages. If you disagree with Matthew McConaughey’s character in True Detective that time is a flat circle, that everything we have done or will do, has been done or will be done again, then this exhibition might change your mind. But I don’t want to get too philosophical here…

Check it out for yourselves – more info at: https://brantfoundation.org/third-dimension-exhibition-announcement/

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The Sea (1981) Julian Schnabel

 

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