Deception and illusion: if the two words carry different moral values, they amount to much the same thing. Berlin-based Sinta Werner, whose work encompasses installation, video, sculpture and collage, is interested in both the unease and the pleasure to be gained from tricking the senses. Her recent show featured characteristic sleights of hand, with a site-specific installation and smaller photo-based collages and objects that offered a kaleidoscopic array of perceptual possibilities both wondrous and unsettling.
As seen through the gallery’s glass storefront, the installation Out of Frame (2009) looked like a room in the aftermath of an earthquake. A section of white flooring tilted up, a plywood support structure visible beneath; white walls and rectangular metal frames fanned out at dizzying angles. When I entered the gallery proper, it became clear that these angled planes were mirrored on one side. Moreover, a glass door in the construction mimicked the one I had just entered; “www.christingerdemayo.com” was written across both. Similarly, an electrical outlet on the artwork was a reflection from the gallery wall opposite it. If the larger form of the work pleased, these tedious details were too obvious—too “reflective,” to be exact. That the work was a fractured version of the gallery space was evident; spelling out its similitude felt heavy-handed.
There was more subtlety in the works that followed. Two black-and-white collages made from photograms appeared to represent skyscrapers rising majestically into the air. Strips of paper in different gradations of gray were woven together to simulate curtain-wall buildings. The works were beautiful if familiar—Valie Export’s recent black-and-white photocollages of skyscrapers and other architectonic forms came immediately to mind. But a series of small sculptures (“Somewhere or Other,” 2009) also took up the theme of modernist architectural mirroring and plumbed it to more startling ends. Three small works featured framed 8-by-10 color transparencies of Berlin’s modernist buildings; the frames are hinged together, and spread into a fan. Mirrored pedestals reflected both the frames and the photographs of glass windows and doors that they held. The works’ diminutive size belied the power of their presence, which felt as nearly infinite as the gridlike glass worlds they represented.
A lovely series of black-and-white photo-collages combining images of diverse architectural settings completed the exhibition, but it was the maquettes that stole the show. By seizing on the glass grids that are ubiquitous in the modern built environment, Werner reframed familiar questions of appearance, deception and mirroring. As she so vividly illustrates, glass walls are everywhere around us, framing our world as if in an endless series of photographs.
Photo: Sinta Werner: Somewhere or Other 1 (detail), 2009, transparency, glass and wood frame, 85⁄8 by 133⁄4 by 153⁄4 inches; at Christinger de Mayo.