Brazilian conceptualist Iran do Espírito Santo’s new pieces, spread sparely over a couple thousand square feet, exuded a characteristic minimal stylishness in keeping with his earlier work—and with the luxury car dealership around the corner. This isn’t accidental; Espírito Santo’s work frequently emphasizes the silky surfaces and sleek forms of expensive manufactured goods. It’s hard not to be seduced.
In the foremost room was the artwork that gave the show its title, Switch (2012). This consisted of a pair of acrylic pieces-one black and one white-painted directly on the gray wall (each about 4½ by 6 feet). Espírito Santo surrounded the solid rectangles at their centers with increasingly faint shades or tints of their respective colors, giving the impression of a rectangular hole in the wall in the case of the black painting, and a ziggurat protruding from the wall in the case of the white one. In the next room, a pristine row of white marble sculptures, titled Globes 1-14 (2011-12), fashioned to resemble various styles of antique and modern flush-mount ceiling lights, sat upended on a white shelf.
In the larger back room, three ample mirrors, dated 2011, from the series “Untitled (Folded Mirrors),” each lay split in two along a diagonal. In all three, one half rests on the floor, the other against the wall. The mirrors looked smoky, since they reflected the dark ceiling of the gallery.
Espírito Santo’s work shows us how little difference exists between our cravings for beautiful home goods and for appealing art objects. The stark environment created by these three installations called to mind the immaculate white walls and black floors of a Club Monaco clothing franchise. Whether such associations represent a critique of modern values or are complicit with them Espírito Santo leaves for us to decide; we can revel in the sexiness for its own sake.
And like a fancy boutique, the installation sometimes felt chilly. In the gallery, Switch was too brightly lit for the desired optical illusion. Paradoxically, reproductions of Espírito Santo’s art give the work new levels of mystery and excitement. In photographs of Switch, the layers of paint blur, and the paintings take on a peculiar luminosity absent in person.
In the display case at the front desk, the gallery featured a monograph from an earlier Espírito Santo show. Inside, stunning images of his series “Cans” (2003–06), a set of gleaming sculptures in the shape of a variety of ordinary tin cans, go Warhol one better—without labels, we don’t even know what’s in them. Are they solid or hollow? Could they hold garbanzo beans or tuna? They seemed like monochrome photorealist nudes of those familiar soup cans. The added layer of seduction in the book intensified the work’s alluring quality for me, at an affordable price to boot. So I bought a copy.
Photo: View of Iran do Espírito Santo’s Untitled (Folded Mirror 12) and Untitled (Folded Mirror 13), both 2011, mirrors; at Sean Kelly.