Scott Myles, "Freestyle (Second Box for Kirsten and Tim)", 2001

Too often, Conceptual Art just illustrates a concept and its didacticism obscures instead of illuminates its meaning. In “Someone to Share My Life With,” at London's the Approach gallery, conceptual practice leaves academic and art world argot behind by presenting poetry instead of theory.

The exhibit's title comes from Mathew Sawyer's multi-media piece, which documents his act of painting bluebirds on the ragged soles of the shoes that his anonymous neighbor left outside his door. Sawyer's auspicious gesture is especially gentle, since its recipient might never notice and if he had, he would certainly remain ignorant of its origins. Shizuka Yokomizo develops a different kind of intimacy, despite distance and anonymity, with the strangers she photographs in their homes. Through a typed and hand-delivered letter, which she hangs next to the image that results, Yokomizo invites strangers in various cities to stand in front of their window at an appointed time while she takes photographs from an unseen location. If her potential subjects do not want to participate, they need only keep their curtains closed. Yokomizo never pursues further communication with her subjects, although people willing to be photographed receive a small print and her contact information. Because of the project's provocative mix of intrusion and generosity, the resulting images evoke yearning and fragile romance. And, as the image of the slight Asian woman who appears timidly unguarded, while photographed in her dimly lit living room exemplifies, the honesty of the interchanges outweigh their oddity.

The poetics of distance, beautifully bridged in Yokomizo and Sawyer's work, are humorously questioned by Ben Judd's video, I miss. Here, Judd films grizzled middle-aged men on the street, while his voice-over commentary claims, “I miss” their candid and often crude gestures. A burly man spitting on the sidewalk hardly seems a justifiable object of romantic nostalgia, but Judd's comic sentimentality reminds us that love is not always selective or even comprehensible.

Distance and nostalgia permeate Jenny Perlin's Washing, an eloquent piece addressing New York City's loss from 9/11. With intense, self-conscious subtlety, it evokes the city's confusion, insecurity, privilege and sadness, as a vintage film projector runs a short reel showing Perlin's hand as she attempts to clean her window facing Manhattan's wounded skyline. While her hand frantically attempts to clear the view, the dirt on her rag and the fragility of the anachronistic film stock cause the sepia tinted image to grow mistier and more remote.
Finally, where Perlin's film expresses the frustration of loss, Felix Gonzalez-Torres creates a moving memorial. Torres's lover, dying of A.I.D.S. in 1991, selected the medium and shape for “Rossmore II”, a portrait representing the weight of his body in green hard-candy. A preference in sweets is uniquely personal and oddly autobiographical. Though the piece is the weight of the person's adult body, the medium is child-like-an attempt to reverse death through regression. As other works by Torres, viewers are invited to take away pieces of the installation. By eating a piece of the candy, the viewer ingests the body's surrogate, and joins with other viewers in keeping alive the memory and spirit of someone long gone, a gesture which, like the strongest work in “Someone to Share my Life With” lyrically mergers heart and head.

Ana Honigman
London, England