Hilary Berseth and Kevin Zucker, Reverse Turing Tests at Eleven Rivington
11 Rivington Street
New York, NY, 10002
October 9th through November 9th, 2008
For the “Reverse Turing Tests” exhibit at Eleven Rivington Gallery, Kevin Zucker created five acrylic, pencil, and screen-print paintings of empty generic metal shelving units. Fifty-one participating artists then created additional images to be printed and placed in designed spots on Zucker’s shelves. His works hold the collection; they archive, store, and display existing information - a theme that has been central to all of Zucker’s recent work.
The idea of display and storage ties in perfectly with Hilary Berseth’s pieces, which also focus on these themes. Both artists display a mathematical beauty, be it a storage unit for items or living unit for animals. While Zucker’s works are precise computerized and photographed images, Berseth’s Programmed Hives are miracles of nature. They are a playful display of nature’s ability to produce the fantastic. Made up of honeycombs on boards with wood, urethane foam, wire, metal and paint, these structures are shaped into spirals, waves, and squares. Each piece is created by placing Berseth’s armatures into a closed box in the spring, and then allowing bee colonies take over, filling the structure with wax cells and honey. Berseth works with the bees, manipulating their movements, leading them into the shapes that he wants to create.
Berseth and Zucker’s joint exhibit at Eleven Rivington is a cohesive display; each artist serves as a creator and guide, a worshipper of structure and storage. There is a repetition that can be seen in all the works, whether it is one generic shelf after another, or one small honeycomb after another. Both artists also display a sort of absence of life and warmth. When looking at the hive structures, it is hard not to imagine small yellow and black bees crawling all over the sides. The absence of the bees leaves a dead and cold home, one where we can still sense (and even smell) what it once was. Zucker’s shelves give off a similar feeling; his paintings are cold storage units, housing the creativity of absent artists. He shelves these beautiful images, and the life seems to drain out of them. It is like putting a beautiful lamp on a dusty metal shelf; the lamp’s light is out, and it can no longer provide the room with warmth and light.
Along with the Programmed Hives, Berseth also has two copper pieces on display, called Untitled I (Electronically Deposited Formation) and Untitled 2 (Electronically Deposited Formation). Untitled Two actually resembles Zucker’s grids and reflects the hard edges of his computerized storage units. In a crisscross of copper rods, Berseth creates a small square structure that looks a lot like the bare bones of a building. Once again we have precise, electronic, and mathematic art, capable of being filled.
Both artists play with the line between digital and manual, be it the work of bees or the work of a computer. We see small flaws in the Programmed Hives, evidence that although the structures can be manipulated by metal and wires, manual work can still be flawed. Bees are organic creatures, and this mortality and fallibility is reflected in their work. Where Zucker’s paintings can seem flat and cold, Berseth’s hives have some semblance of life.
Eleven Rivington is a small gallery and an excellent space for joint exhibits such as these. Natural light washes the room and the condensed space forces us to see the links between the two artists. It is an interesting exhibit, despite its cold mathematical feel, and the hives are pretty darn cool; however, it must be pointed out that artist Garnett Puett produced similar sculptures using bees and their hives, which lessens the power and ingenuity of these creations.
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Gabrielle Sierra is a writer in New York.