Spiders Invade

Yes! That was my first response upon seeing Carlos Amorales' new show, Discarded Spider, at downtown's Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). This show works perfectly in the gallery spaces of the Zaha Hadid-designed building, whose many angles and openings hav

Yes! That was my first response upon seeing Carlos Amorales’ new show, Discarded Spider, at downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).

This show works perfectly in the gallery spaces of the Zaha Hadid-designed building, whose many angles and openings have proved the master of too many prior CAC shows. Along with the current Maria Lassnig painting show (see Matt Morris' review here), it marks a terrific start to the 2008-’09 season of one-person shows.

The building and the artwork complement one other — indeed, they make each other more beautiful. And that’s quite an accomplishment, since the centerpieces of Amorales’ exhibition are several gigantic black spiders made of painted aluminum and rubber and poised on the floor or suspended from the ceiling.

Besides these spiders, the show by the Mexico City artist also includes a series of quasi-pointillist black-andwhite collages, based on digital images, that depict skulls, spider webs, ominous birds and vulnerable human figures. Not inherently pretty subject matter; not easily likeable stuff.

But the blacks and whites of the work meld well with the blacks, grays and whites of the museum’s interior. And the spiders — sleek and nimble — appear at home. As creepy as the subject matter might seem, it is also fun in the way an old monster movie like Tarantula might be.

Yet there’s also a darker, more serious component, one that gains gravitas in the setting of a serious contemporary art museum. One gallery is dark but for two black-and-white video pieces, “Discarded Spider” and “Psicofonias.” The latter, especially transfixing, features digitalized dots that float on and off screen to creaky, otherworldly music.

Discarded Spider isn’t a site-specific installation per se — much of the work previously existed. But Amorales, who visited the CAC to plan for the show, took its architecture into consideration so that it feels like one.

That is a tribute both to the building and to the artist. It is especially an acknowledgment to Raphaela Platow, who began her job as director and chief curator in 2007 with an eye toward transforming the CAC with one-person shows this season and livening up the place. This exhibit, paired with Lassnig’s, shows she’s on top of the international contemporary world and knows who’s the best to bring here.

Because Discarded Spiders runs until March 8, the museum has developed the Historical/Horror Film Series to run with it. It gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Monday and continues on selected Mondays once a month through March. The innovative concept — inspired by Amorales’ work — is to show how horror movies and documentaries interrelate in their concerns and emotional wallop. It’s free for members; $7.50 for others.

The first pairing is John Huston’s 1946 Let There Be Light, a once-banned documentary about World War II soldiers undergoing psychiatric treatment for their traumas, with one of the most artful horror movies ever made, Carl Dreyer’s 1932 Vampyr. For more detailed information about the entire series, visit www.contemporaryartcenter.org and click on the picture of the shadowy figure with the scythe.

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: [email protected]
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