Leandro Erlich

Leandro Erlich’s sculptural environments create stages that dramatize quotidian spaces by upending our assumptions about them. He often goes to great lengths to set up simple, but intense shifts in spatial metaphysics. For the Shanghai Biennial in 2002, Erlich built a ballet studio whose mirrored walls were in fact clear glass; in perfectly twinned rooms, dancers mirrored each others’ movements to create the illusion of reflection; viewers found themselves conspicuously missing from the reflected scene.

Installed in a dark room on the third floor of this exhibition’s building, Las Puertas sets up a jarring illusion that is similarly straightforward, but with more powerful implications. Upon entering the room, viewers are confronted with a bank of closed doors that separates them from a brightly lighted edenic space beyond. Light streams through the keyholes and under the doors, drawing viewers towards them in the darkness. Before realizing exactly what is happening, they open the doors and step through the frame, only to discover a dark space just like the one they’ve left. (The light source, it turns out, is contained in each door itself, and switches off when viewers turn the knob).

Erlich’s installation updates a 1995 work by Ceal Floyer called Door, which used a slide projector on the gallery floor to project a bright strip of light at the bottom of a locked door. Floyer’s piece, indebted to the hermeticism of the Minimalist gesture, fetishizes the deadpan simplicity of her projected conceit. Las Puertas, notably, is less concerned with the illusion than our attempt to access it. Its meaning flows from the way in which it implicates the desire provoked by imagination: in one quick moment, we cross a threshold that is freighted with metaphor, at once destroying and exposing the illusory purity of our ideal. As Smithson wrote on his Yucatán road trip, “one is always crossing the horizon, yet it always remains distant.”1

1. Robert Smithson, “Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan,” in Jack Flam, ed., Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 119.

Las Puertas (The Doors), 2004/2005