For curator Patrice Giasson, holding exhibitions that are both culturally significant and awesome to behold is the prime directive at Purchase College’s Neuberger Museum of Art. Giasson manages to achieve both of these in spades with his startling new exhibit, Leandro Erlich: Port of Reflections, on show from February 5 to July 30. Erlich transforms an entire gallery space into a port of dark water, with five colorfully painted rowboats rocking above the gentle waves. The piece is at once a statement on individual experience and an eye-popping visual treat. We asked Giasson just what went into forming this exhibition and how he came to settle on Erlich’s work.
What fueled the decision to feature Erlich?
We awarded him the 2017 Roy R. Neuberger Prize, and I was very happy about it. I had proposed Leandro Erlich for the prize, and he was selected last year during a committee that includes several people on campus. I felt someone working with architecture, perception, and monument-sized sculpture was very apropos.
What about Erlich made him an ideal artist?
I always think about bringing forward artists who are meaningful and powerful, as well. It happens that Erlich is the rock star of Argentina right now, and that’s because he [produced a very popular work inspired by] a national monument. His work is very interesting from several points of view. It engages with a wide range of the public — not just art lovers — it is interactive, and it is very profound. He often starts with something very familiar to us, and then forces us to see it differently.
Why do you think the installation itself is so effective?
Port of Reflections is an interesting piece because it includes many components of Erlich’s other work. There is this idea of the outside coming inside and vice versa. For instance, one minute you are walking through a museum and the next moment you are inside of a port. It is a very ambitious illusion. When you see the boats in the low light you can watch them moving and their reflections in the water below. However, eventually viewers realize they cannot see their own reflections and that there is no water at all. It is an astounding illusion and an exhibition that will be appreciated by many.