Collier Schorr, Journals & Notebooks @303

JTF (just the facts): A total of 16 works in a mixture of media, variously framed and matted, and hung in the single room gallery space, which is divided by a three-sided video display area. The show includes 10 photographs (both black and white and color), 2 videos, 1 banner, 1 painting, 1 drawing, and 1 photograph with additional collage elements. The majority of the photographs are archival pigment prints, in editions of 5, made between 2005 and 2008. Physical dimensions of the photographs range between 12×16 and 72×54. The other works were made between 2007 and 2010. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: As you enter the gallery space at 303, a small white banner hangs limply from the cavernous ceiling, stating that “This War Is Over”. What might have been an emphatic, decisive or impassioned shout in a different context comes off as tired and a bit pathetic in this big space, its obvious weariness undermining its own potential power. Maybe the war isn’t really over, whatever the sign says.
This unsettling undercurrent pervades all of the work in Collier Schorr’s new show. I can’t remember a show that made me feel as stifled and claustrophobic as this one did. Whether it was the expanse of identical empty seats in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, the shelves full of war books and catalogues from the 1972 Olympics, the historian carrying a chair and box strapped to his back (the “weight of history”), or the young girl arranging flowers, there is a palpable sense of being trapped and hemmed in by the past, where nostalgia fights with facts better left behind. Schorr’s floral still lifes, tied together by wires and string, unnaturally suspended in mid-air, seem equally torn between being passive and aggressive.

The most startling piece in the show is a short voyeuristic video of a fragile-looking teenage boy waking up amidst the crowd at the park. As he gazes around, disoriented and trying to get a grip on his surroundings, he looks alternately fearful and stupefied, in a kind of dazed reverie, with his knees pulled up to protect himself. He is confused and uncertain, agitated but also surprisingly deadened. In the context of the rest of the works on display, the boy becomes a symbol of a national identity that has been thrown off balance and is struggling to regain its footing.

While I can’t say I exactly “enjoyed” the strange juxtapositions of this show, it was absolutely successful in both creating a mood and getting me to think more deeply about how traumatic history informs the present. The work delivers its unsettling jolt with subtlety, leaving behind a haunting that isn’t spooky, but more like a chronic ache.
Collector’s POV: While there are artworks in a variety of media in this show, I only gathered price information on the photographs. Those prices are generally set by physical size, with the smallest images between $10000 and $15000, the medium sized images at $18000, and the largest images at $24000. Schorr’s photographic work has only recently begun to enter the secondary markets, with prices ranging at auction between $4000 and $10000.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Yale faculty page (here)
  • Book: Blumen (DLK COLLECTION review here)

Collier Schorr, Journals & Notebooks
Through December 4th

303 Gallery
547 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011

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