So Close

Part four of the 5-part Workspace ’19­ exhibition series, featuring new work by residents of AAI’s LES Studio Program

So Close is a new installation developed by Erica Bailey for Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space. The installation includes a miniature diorama of the LES Studio Program studios, where the artist was a resident from June 1 through September 14, 2018. The diorama is paired with found video, taken at the microscopic level, of bacteria decomposing animal cells and video the artist took in the LES studios of a dead mouse under the radiator, discovered while seeking unusual vantage points from which to shoot the space.

The diorama reduces the studio space, crystallizing it into a still vessel much like the mouse carcass. In doing so, it removes the viewer from the space, placing them outside looking in. Meanwhile, the video of the dead mouse transports the viewer down into the space to view the neglected scene of demise. It suggests an embodied eye moving along the baseboard and magnifies what is seen there to a human scale through the use of projection. Video displayed on a monitor positioned behind the windows of the diorama creates an unexpected, otherworldly exterior to the studio. Unfolding outside of the windows, at a scale imperceptible to the naked eye, is the frantic activity of organisms that when magnified creates visuals that are mesmerizing.

The diorama is the artist’s attempt to halt time, at once a denial of impermanence and a memento mori. It presents the studio emptied of both art and the implements of artmaking suggesting both the potential for creation and an anxiety akin to that which a writer feels when confronted with the blank page. The alternating acts of closing in on and pulling back that occur in the installation express a longing to get at, through the creative act, something elusive about our existence within various and bewildering scales of time and space.

Erica Bailey is Bronx-based artist, originally from a small-town, working-class family in Ohio, she earned her BFA from The Ohio State University (2003) and her MFA from the University of Cincinnati (2007). She has created several large-scale installations at Ohio institutions, including The House that was Haunted Before It was Built (2007) at the Aronoff Center for Art and Design, University of Cincinnati, and Telescoping House (2010-2013) for the UnMuseum of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. She moved to New York in 2012 after accepting a position with The City College of New York, where she now teaches one class each semester in addition to the managing the sculpture area’s wood and metal shops.  Recent exhibitions of note include Bronx Calling: The Third AIM Biennial (2015) at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and Its memory, the memory of its ribs, its knees, its shoulders (2015), a solo exhibition at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn.

Artists Alliance Inc. is 501c3 not for profit organization located on the Lower East Side of New York City within the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. Cuchifritos Gallery and the LES Studio Program are supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Cuchifritos Gallery programming is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the New York City Economic Development Corporation and individual supporters of Artists Alliance Inc for their continued support. Special thanks go to our team of dedicated volunteers and interns, without whom this program would not be possible.