the future belongs to the past


In its contemporary galleries, MoMA has put on view Untitled (Paperbacks), an installation by the British sculptor Rachel Whiteread. The room contains the plaster cast of a library interior—a ghostly imprint, or negative, of a roomful of books. It appears hollow but filled with echoes, barren but warmed by memory. In this room, the empty seems to dream of the full, the surface of the interior, the silent of the written. Whiteread has made similar casts of other places (including a room that evokes her childhood home) and they, too, appear haunted by the lost positive.

Paperbacks has become a private symbol of mine. It seems to embody the way, increasingly, I experience contemporary art. What isn’t there captivates me. Steps away from the Whiteread is a new pair of installations by Josiah McElheny that addresses the utopian dreams of the early twentieth century. Alpine Cathedral and City-Crown are two models of glistening glass buildings illuminated by changing colored lights. In provocative and subtle ways, McElheny’s piece renders the place of utopian thought in our culture. He has a certain detachment: Utopian thought is not, today, viscerally at hand. (His models date back to the work of the early-twentieth-century utopians Paul Scheerbart and Bruno Taut.) He compares and contrasts—utopians long for either the mountaintop or the city—and conveys the ineffable nature of dreams. The models melt and shift in the eye.

more from New York Magazine here.