You're probably already familiar with Martin Creed, even if you don't know his name. His large scale sculpture 'Understanding' in Brooklyn Bridge Park is hard to miss if you live in New York or have an Instagram account. But that's just a small portion of attention that's going to Creed this summer, who has major exhibits at London's Hauser & Wirth and now Park Avenue Armory. His Armory show "The Back Door" debuted on Tuesday night with a preview party, and it featured the kind of minimalistic humor that's been prevalent in his work thus far.
[The light from the open door all the way back]
There's a sense of entertainment in the incredible Armory space itself, which Creed makes good use of. Large curtains open and close in the corridor, lights flicker on and off in a room (a variant of which won the Turner Prize in 2001), a trio of metronomes tick out of sync with each other; all serve to create a sense of chaos and giddiness, amplified by the many guests (there was something joyful about watching people forced to pause for the curtain to open at a busy party) but also the grandiosity of the space. Nowhere else was this more clear than the balloon room, where guests enter a room which half the space is occupied by large white balloons immediately making them feel like children in a ball pit.
That jocularity does in fact extend to his video series, but only if you have the stomach for it. On view are two of his more famous videos of a woman entering the screen, defecating, and leaving, and a woman doing the same but vomiting instead. A video of an erection forming (and softening) is shown without any context, highlighting the mechanical nature of human functions. In the Drill Hall, it's pitch black save for clips of his new series 'Mouth' projected on a large screen. A camera closes in on unmoving women's faces, until they slowly open their mouth to reveal chewed up food. As the film ends a garage door far in the back of the Hall opens exposing the street, and playing on the completion of the food cycle.
The Back Door is simply a fun exhibit, and rather than smother viewers with an abundance of 'fine art,' Creed's use of an exquisite space as a backdrop for minimalistic musings creates an immersive experience. You don't observe this exhibit, you take part in it, and it will stir up some sort of visceral reaction in anybody. You can easily pass on the disgust and indulge only in delight, but when you remove the context and embrace the humor, the enjoyment you'll receive will be well worth the price of admission.
The Back Door is open June 8th to August 7th at Park Avenue Armory
[Photos: James Ewing]