A study of time via collage and sculpture, “Dreamsickle” is Kahlil Robert Irving and Lyndon Barrois Jr.’s first joint exhibition since 2017. The artists attempt to convey how the friction and overlap between, say, the timelines of American history books and the imagined time of cinema might prove generative in some regard—whether for social equity or personal dreams. The results are mixed. Many of the works (all 2021) capture the mundane experience of life on the internet (via memes, social media, headlines), but these feel dry, almost didactic, representing something that is rather self-evident—the internet is a cacophony. The more wistful works conjure a complex feeling of possibility tinged with unease that a title like “Dreamsickle” might have sought to capture.
Barrois’s four-piece sculpture Immortal Objects (I–IV) rests on the floor. Each component is a cast-iron sundial that shares a low, circular black platform with a single geometric acrylic solid. The piece seems to reference cosmic time—an immense span that makes a human life seem like a blink. But in the gallery, the sundials are defunct, stuck in a timeless limbo under the flat light of fluorescents. While their purpose and intended correspondence to celestial bodies might apply outdoors, here, the instruments are inert—open to new uses, or just deadened.
Irving’s vinyl-on-aluminum collage Means_Angles_Integers (The weight of media) #8 is organized like a timeline. A series of headlines and article clippings is turned vertically to look like a sequence of scenes in video editing software, perhaps nodding to the cinematic feel of the “scroll” or “feed” organization of most websites. Irving’s other collage, Means_Angles_Integers (The weight of media) #7, juxtaposes advertisements for credit score reports, an image of Prince, posts on Twitter, and memes from Facebook. The clippings overlap and obscure each other, competing for the viewer’s attention and conveying how these disparate types of content are given the same priority on the internet. Irving’s selections here are not random. Many of them pertain to race relations over the past two years: the first few paragraphs of a USA Today article note the ridiculousness of Trump’s declaring that he “popularized” Juneteenth, and a few sentences from a Washington Post article announce the launch, via presidential executive order, of an FBI program to monitor the police’s use of force. This all constitutes only a sliver of one’s hypothetical daily internet intake, yet it conveys the way political, humorous, and aesthetic content all compete for one’s attention there. Still, the collage reads as less critical than diagnostic, less a call to action than a mirroring of chaos.
Barrois’s installation Perpetual Dilation turns to cinematic time, considering how it relates to lived time, but is unclear in its intentions. Twelve film stills are arranged in the shape of a clock, each featuring a clock face from a different film. But the time depicted doesn’t necessarily align with its position on the clock face—the image at the midday position reads 12:00, and the next reads 1:00, but the one at 2:00 reads 9:25, the next, 9:40, and so on, without any discernible pattern. A little black hole also pierces each image—as is done with celluloid film, to create a cue mark signaling the end of a reel—suggesting a possible link between different cinematic moments. Still, it’s hard to tell which realities are being stitched together, because the chosen stills don’t provide a sense of the films’ content. The piece immediately calls to mind Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010)—which splices together twenty-four hours’ worth of movie scenes depicting clocks, arranged and synchronized to show the actual time of day—on a much smaller scale. Barrois’s interpretation feels rudderless, even in dialogue with the other studies in the room. Twilight Dialogue features the protagonist from Juzo Itami’s film A Taxing Woman (1987) below a blood moon, alongside clips of a sunset—twilight and nightfall encased in cinematic amber. Most broadly, all a viewer could conclude is that Barrois is studying how cinema distorts time.
Very little of the personal encroaches in these artists’ exploration (except one small picture of Irving in his collage Means_Angles_Integers [The weight of media] #7 ), which is surprising for a show framed by dreams. Perhaps these analytic tools are the beginning of a new body of work, like a set of sketches for a larger project or film. Notably absent is any time-based art, or any timepiece more fluid or mystical than a sundial or clock.
One of the more affecting works, and one that most related to the show’s title, gestured toward this last effect. In Irving’s Sky_High (Low & fractured SMAERD), 2021, a thin shelf supports cropped, overlapping images of the sky, arranged in a straight line. They feel like snapshots from the mind of someone daydreaming in an open field. A single patch of blue placed high on the opposite wall suggests an inaccessible escape à la Robert Gober’s Prison Window (1992), a sculpture installed above head height that provides the illusion of a blue sky behind a barred window. Irving’s work is also a little unsettling, squaring and quantifying the sky, but that sense of calculation—as if on the way to auctioning slices of heaven—is mostly overpowered by a sense of yearning. While many of these collages and juxtapositions were beautiful, I wanted more friction between them, more energy to charge these visions and dreams.