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Key takeaways

1. “Ascensions” invites the viewer through a sleepless night, imbued with a heightened sense of possibility

2. Featuring works by Gregor Hildebrandt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mitchell Charbonneau, Alicja Kwade, Harry Gruyaert, Tobias Wong, Sarah Charlesworth, Jeppe Hein, James Nares, Jonathan Paul Gillette, Simone Gilges, and Glenn O’Brien

Off Paradise is presents Ascensions, a group exhibition featuring works by Gregor Hildebrandt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mitchell Charbonneau, Alicja Kwade, Harry Gruyaert, Tobias Wong, Sarah Charlesworth, Jeppe Hein, James Nares, Jonathan Paul Gillette, Simone Gilges, and Glenn O’Brien.

Approaching the first anniversary of Off Paradise, “a fictional place, right off Paradise, adjacent to it, but not exactly it,” I felt the urgent desire to assemble a group of some of my favorite artists to reflect a deep sense of hope and optimism.

Ascensions invites the viewer through a sleepless night. An eerie, spectral Nastassja Kinski from Gregor Hildebrandt’s So nah so weit (So close, so far) appears to be floating through the skyline of downtown Manhattan. A reflection in a reflection, graceful and melancholic, imbuing her passage with a heightened sense of possibility.

As the night ascends, the works are veiled in muted grays, shades of blacks. A single burst of color, something to rise towards, is visible from the entrance, but at a distance.

Gregor Hildebrandt, So nah so weit (So close, so far), 2013
A haunting reflection in a reflection, Gregor Hildebrandt’s Nastassja Kinski opens Ascensions. A still image from Wim Wender’s “Faraway, So Close,” his sequel to the classic “Wings of Desire,” is reflected onto one of Hildebrandt’s “mirror paintings,” a black monochrome of VHS tape, and re-photographed by the artist. In So nah so weit (So close, so far), the magnetic tape is entirely recorded with the Wenders movie, yet not playable, rendering this deafeningly silent portrait ever so present.

Gordon Matta-Clark, Chinatown Voyeur, 1971
Chinatown Voyeur is the rarely seen first film of Gordon Matta-Clark, made in 1971, the same year he opened his seminal artist-run restaurant FOOD together with Carol Goodden and Tina Girouard. Using nocturnal, almost surveillance-type footage of downtown Manhattan, Chinatown Voyeur presents a long, static shot, out of the window of an apartment on Chatham Square. It is exhibited in the space atop a pedestal as a kind of filmic sculpture. From dusk to dawn.

Mitchell Charbonneau, Step Ladder (Partially Collapsed), 2020
Implied in Mitchell Charbonneau’s Step Ladder (Partially Collapsed) is the possibility of ascending, of reaching above one’s physical height. The work itself appears banal, utilitarian. Upon closer inspection, it reveals itself as carefully constructed, almost Judd-like in its repeating rectangles and formal poise. It is waiting in a state of disuse, or, perhaps, just-recent use by someone unseen.

Alicja Kwade, Time Machine, 2016
Alicja Kwade’s autumn leaves “to be scattered casually in the corners and around the edges of the gallery,” seem to float as one moves past them. A “time machine” that leaves a trail poetically linking all of the works and artists in Ascensions across time and space.

Harry Gruyaert, Gordon Matta-Clark at Galerie Yvon Lambert working on Descending Steps for Batan, 1977
This is part of the photographic documentation by Harry Gruyaert of a deeply personal work by Gordon Matta-Clark. Descending Steps For Batan is a performance that took place over a two-week period at the Yvon Lambert gallery in Paris, in the wake of the suicide of Matta-Clark’s twin brother, Sebastian, known as
Batan. Exorcising the deadly fall of Batan, Matta-Clark digs through the soil of the Parisian gallery towards the depths of the earth. A reverse ascension, a necessary descent, in order to rise.

Tobias Wong, Casper, 2002
Casper is a candlestick in the form of a traditional base and candle, but is, in fact, a single piece made entirely of crystal. The flame burns paraffin oil and the candle itself will never melt, never have to be replaced. An ever-so-friendly presence for eternity.

Sarah Charlesworth, Candle (small version), 2012
Light, in both a physical and metaphysical sense, centers Sarah Charlesworth’s Candle. Our expectations are
questioned and confounded by optical inversions and visual illusions. There is no neutral or objective point of closure, only the shifting perspectives of the observer and the observed.

Jeppe Hein, One Wish for You (medium orange essence), 2020
Jeppe Hein’s One Wish For You (medium orange essence), offers the single burst of color in the space, bright orange, an embodiment, perhaps, of a resilient sense of optimism beckoning us up. The balloon is visible from the entrance, but at a distance.

James Nares, Pendulum, 1976
The film Pendulum tracks a large spherical ball as it swings on a wire strung up high on a footbridge over Staple Street in Tribeca, where James Nares lived at the time. The bridge was long ago dismantled. Pendulum appears to be oscillating across time and space, through what Nares called “a kind of golden age, those years."
Much as Off Paradise sits at the intersection of two neighborhoods, Chinatown and Tribeca, the past here feels ever so present.

Jonathan Paul Gillette, Michael Jordan Basketball Card, 2014
Jonathan Paul Gillette bent a cross into the only remaining trading card from his childhood, a hologram from 1992, creased and scarred into a cruciform, evoking an icon. In a sense, Gillette’s Michael Jordan, in the act of dunking, seems to dodge Nares’s pendulum ball of time. No one jumps as high.

Simone Gilges, (eye in the sky), 2009
Simone Gilges’s (eye in the sky) evokes two states of consciousness, deep sleep and wakefulness. A soft panel of cross-woven silk with delicate hues changing with the perspective of the viewer, the work seems both to offer and resist the act of “lifting a corner of the veil.”

Glenn O’Brien, Mother Superior, 1969
Glenn O'Brien was educated by the Jesuits first at St. Ignatius, in Cleveland, Ohio, then at Georgetown University, where he studied classics and edited the Georgetown Journal. Soon after moving to New York, he established his career as the editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. Mother Superior is a poem O’Brien published in the Journal while he was still a student and just 22.