2010 by Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher
Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC
Better Dimension is an intriguing installation from the collaborative duo Cleijne and Gallagher. Projections of abstract images (like the one above) play at various changing points on the four walls of a darkened room made up of sliding panels; in the centre a projection of John F. Kennedy’s head rotates on an LP. The effect is nothing short of surreal. The abstractions are inspired by American Illusionist Black Herman (1920-30s “buried alive” act), and Sun Ra, who was in turn inspired by Herman working as a jazz musician from the 50s onwards. Ra’s concerts were “cosmic dramas”, inspired by out of space and the future of music, in line with the forward thinking president JFK. These figures make for great inspiration, and one is completely entranced by the flashing images of cosmic and meaningful abstraction bubbling away in their glassy and dream-like articulation. Organic and globular, the backgrounds to these images appear conflicting and harmonious; as water and oil, they are a dilutive and resistive mixture of tone, density and depth, appearing as a mass of fantastical movement. In their natural and stirring appearance it is easy to see these patterns as ideas and inspiration, though they are frozen still for us, they appear to be hardly kept from movement. Colour is then carefully and effectively introduced, subtly leaking in in the most intense and beautiful shades; gloriously translucent and bright, colour is ink-like in raw and undiluted tones. One is entranced upon entering the ‘room’; impact-full enough seen individually, on mass these images hold your attention. Cleijne and Gallagher completely succeed in encompassing us in an atmosphere of teeming inspiration and innovative thinking, the making of a better dimension.