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New Work: Aimee Shapiro

By David Morley | Posted 2/18/2004

New Work: Aimee Shapiro

New Work: Aimee Shapiro

There are dueling emotions at play in Aimee Shapiro's New Work at School 33. Her room-filling installation is actually quite small, having been given one gallery to work with on the second floor, but Shapiro works with the space to create a unique dichotomy--between the comical and the poignant, between the embrace of playfulness and the fleeting nature of memory.

The gallery itself is painted white--banded with black borders that sometimes curve away from the corners and at other times realign with the edges--and is filled completely with objects constructed of Styrofoam and plaster, also painted white, also with stark black edges. They're hewn from the foam to resemble household items: an oven and range, a washer and dryer, a table, a Styrofoam toaster with Styrofoam bread popped up and ready for buttering.

T he immediate impression of it all is comical at first, with the objects skewed so obviously out of proportion: The washer and dryer are miniature, the oven is oversized. The countertop is too tall, and the knife that sits upon it is enormous, daunting, like a prop in an old Peter Jackson movie. The effect of the black edging on the walls, meanwhile, plays with proportion, too, and standing in the room gives the sense of an amusement park fun house with angled floors and ceilings, where you feel too big at one side of the room and miniscule at the other.

After spending some time in the room, however, this first impression falls away. All the household items are there, in what looks to be an efficiency apartment, but everything is, for lack of a better word, wrong. You've been in rooms like this, but it seems less like one of those places than the memory of such a place, and it's always different in memory. There's always some distortion, some loss of detail.

And this is the crux of what Shapiro seems to be getting at. The work is crude and evasive, and speaks to a past that every viewer has experienced, a time existing only as a thin thread of memory. The details are lost. Only fragments remain, and they are, at best, approximate.

This isn't an exhibit you'd spend hours in, studying the details of each piece, admiring. Instead, the space creates a flash flood of laughter, then a wave of disquietude, then an understanding that you, too, have experienced fleeting memories, lost memories, and it is to this communion that Shapiro speaks so clearly.

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