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by William Corwin, May 24, 2023

The Boiler in Williamsburg, now the home of the Elm Foundation, has become a febrile intellectual terrarium of sorts: in “Out of Joint” five visual artists and a dancer inhabit the space and allow their works to expand and evolve. 

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Etty Yaniv, John O’Connor, Levani, Melissa Stern, and Yasmeen Abdallah all have sited works in the two-story brick box-industrial space-cum-art gallery; and a dancer, Louisa Pancoast, performs in and around the artist’s installations, and will do so this Saturday, May 27th, for the closing of the exhibition.  The Boiler’s previous identity as a mechanical entity plays to the artist’s environmentally themed works: as the boiler long ago ceased to produce heat and energy, no longer devouring fossil resources, inscrutable and amorphous beings, along with human, life forms repopulate the space.  They also resonate with each other and find common cause.

 The parti-colored acrylic clouds of Yaniv’s floating installations drift and drip, and Abdallah’s sheer and fragile jellyfish like fabric composition “Breathless Below” (2023) dangles down and seem to put out fringe-feelers in a separate work “Elevation” (2023) along the wall. Both artists are reinterpreting the idea of medium.  For Abdallah the tubes and strings of colorful textile are a movement up and away from the human form—the pieces of fabric move away from their use as clothing, reassembling themselves as ghostly amalgamations of emotional energy.   Yaniv’s forms, a piece entitled “The Return of Lost Objects” (2023) are similar—made from paint, the skins of color burst and tear themselves from rectangular stretchers—they are dissolving paintings—but still hover within their geometric cages, as if unsure what to do next.

Yasmeen Abdallah, Breathless Bellow, 2023, various textiles and plastics, dimensions variable, photo credit: Max Yawney

Louisa Pancoast (dancer), Levani (sculpture), where the palms nest, 202-23, Nest, dry flowers exchanged between the artist and their lover over the last three years, coconuts cast in scented wax with pyrite, mirth, incense, and violets, transparent cerulean neon.Nest 60” (diameter), overall dimensions variable, courtesy of the artist

Melissa Stern’s figures stand in pairs and larger groups around the square space, observing the viewer with their blank faces, as much as the viewer observes them.  Her drawings also hang on the wall, and a cabinet of faces and a trapped imprisoned doll-like being “Family Portrait” (2022) add a quality of terror and sweetness to the room.  Stern’s avatars of youthful trauma meld well with Levani’s glowing blue nest, “Where the Palms Nest” (2020-2023) perched on a shelf-like grill, a relic of the old boiler’s machinery.  Levani’s installation is an accumulation of the bi-products of human interaction and love—a woven circle of flowers and herbs, coiled around a blue neon ring.  Instead of eggs in the nest, there are cast coconuts, a visual pun on our expectation to find eggs and instead finding an analogous but very different form: a reminder to question our expectations of love and gender.

With her performances which interact with the space and the works in it, Louisa Pancoast adds a moving element to the installation.  Pancoast’s body rhythms are colorfully paralleled by John O’Connor’s radiant and radiating colored pencil on paper “Blood Pressure" (2011-2023), a creatively reconfigured chart of the artist’s own life-signals.  The striped ovoid and circular shapes originate from calibrating the artist’s blood pressure, and are framed by geometric forms, mysterious red tentacles, and a colorful target that fills the paper. The medical chart has come to life and become unmoored, no longer seeking to convey information to us, but instead become an independent being.  All the art in “Out of Joint” does exactly this—by spreading out through the boiler and growing and mutating, the work becomes about alternative solutions beyond the typical rules of composition and aesthetics, and the traditional artwork/viewer hierarchy.

Louisa Pancoast (dancer), John O’Connor (art), photo credit Etty Yaniv

Etty Yaniv, The Return of Lost Objects, acrylic, plastic, wood, paper, found objects, wire, 2023, dimensions variable, photo credit: Max Yawney

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