Vibe of the Era
“People go up peaks in order to study cosmic rays. Probably they have paid little attention to the composition of the mountain itself,” reads the text accompanying Elise Duryee-Browner’s current show “Vibe of the Era” at Gandt. The idea of attention becomes all the more acute when entering the exhibition—viewed in darkness, the gently lit artworks glow around the space, with a moth-to-light magnetism that allows the viewer space to focus on each individual piece. This is made all the more uncanny by the physical setting of the gallery space: A stripped-down basement in Astoria kept intact with all its suburban trimmings. The centerpiece of the show, a 24k gold coin cast from Gal Gadot’s face, actually a doll replica of Gadot, is exhibited atop a Formica bar. The bar is a permanent fixture in the gallery.
“Vibe of the Era” projects a palimpsest in the process of peeling. The 1970s interior of the gallery space is hidden in the dark, and so too are some of the artworks on view: On one wall, two framed aluminum prints, portraits of Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel Jackson hang, unlit. Andrew Jackson was a key pursuant of the gold standard—the United States moved from a bimetal system to exclusively using gold in his presidency. Intentionally obscured, the works align only to form an ambiguous proposition.
The theme of currency is illustrated most transparently by Gold Coin (2021) [pictured]. Hovering off the floor in silent rotation, the cream-colored orb, Star of the Unborn (2021) is dusted with Cuttlebone powder, the same material Duryee-Browner used as a mold for casting in gold. The emphasis on material and metal is something Duryee-Browner pointedly expresses in her writing accompanying the show. But where this materialism leads is left open to interpretation. Like the Janus-face of a two-sided coin, the experience is one of both “world-affirmation” and “world-denial.” —Esra Soraya Padgett
Elise Duryee-Browner, Gold Coin 2021. 24k fine gold, dimensions variable. Courtesy, Gandt, New York