Working collaboratively for the past six years, artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe have created some of the strangest installations since the Surrealists first turned exhibition spaces into total environments. Celebrated for their labyrinthine rooms that reference sci-fi novels and psychedelic drug culture, the talented team has constructed mind-boggling pieces in Marfa, Texas, New York and Los Angeles. Stray Light Grey, the duo’s Marlborough Chelsea debut, combines the raw elements they have previously explored with an added touch of refinement in the making of the paintings, sculptures, photos, objects, collages and videos that are peppered throughout this sensational show.
The exhibition begins with an inviting display of silk-screen paintings in a typical white-box setting. Open doors, however, soon lead into an art handler’s closet and a janitorial bathroom. Then things really start to get weird.
A breach in the wall takes you to another bathroom, this time straight out of the 1970s, and by stepping into the tub and through yet another hole next to it, you are transported into an apocalyptic realm—down decaying hallways, past a deserted OTB parlor and a fossilized power station and up a crude staircase. There, a creepy plastic surgeon’s office above a tacky minimall—stocked with trippy products—awaits you, until finally, you are led into the sophisticated surroundings of a library and villa.
Every room is captivating, but it’s the artworks encountered along the path—including collages on towels of animals and nudes, sculptures of cacti and crystals, and light boxes with imaginary ads—that provide clues to the wild thinking of these artists.—Paul Laster