Adam Putnam


Untitled Photograph courtesy Taxter & Spengemann

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

In an eclectic, sometimes esoteric array of allusions—ranging from Egyptian mummies to medieval churches—Adam Putnam tries to represent what it would be like for the body to merge with space, for inside and outside to meld into one. He expresses this longing in drawings, installations and photographs that fetishize architectural elements.

The most successful work here is a series of black-and-white photographs that contrast spare images of empty corners with depictions of Putnam absurdly struggling with clothing—headlong in a pair of jeans, for example, or with a sneaker on his face. Here, Putnam attempts to express his yearning to get outside his own skin and dissolve into the universe. But more than that, he tries to give form to his belief that “the erotic rests not in the depiction of bodies, but in that of space.” The project has affinities with the work of French postwar artist Yves Klein, who once invited 3,500 people to attend his opening at an empty gallery—his piece was their corporal presence filling the vacant space.

On the gallery’s second floor, Putnam transforms an empty room into a similar container for ambience by using a magic lantern. As it casts its warm green light on four walls, the lantern creates a luminescent skin that envelops the viewer’s own body. Like Olafur Eliasson and James Turrell, who also make light works, Putnam seeks to fabricate an experience of pure sensation, where flesh and space meet without mediation. While this is an impossible goal, his unabashed attempts to capture and communicate such an idealized condition are what make Putnam’s art so provocative. — Nuit Banai

Taxter & Spengemann , through May 26