Life, Death, and the Cosmos Come Together in Sharon Lockhart’s Art

A word of advice: when you see EVENTIDEthe short film that serves as the centerpiece of Sharon Lockhart’s exhibition at Gladstone Gallery: make sure to fully enter the screening room.

On display at Gladstone’s 24th Street outpost, the film screens on a continuous loop in a temporary theater-like space with a bench that positions the viewer one the edge of the screening room and the light of the gallery. Yet, scoot into the tunnel-like theater and the magic of Lockhart’s work unfolds. The images of the natural world she crafts are mesmerizing, and the film’s white noise — the shoreline, shuffling feet, summer bugs — is enveloping. The experience is meditative and transportive, cocooning the viewer in the majesty of nature.

The 30-minute EVENTIDE was filmed on the Swedish island of Gotland during the 2020 Perseid meteor shower. A single, time-lapsed shot captures the metor shower and the activity on the coast of the island, similar to her previous films Podwórka (2009) and NО̄ (2003). While the meteors flicker overhead, people explore the shore with flashlights and cellphones, alone or in groups. They trudge their way through the bushes and rocky enclaves and slowly disperse until only one person remains on the beach. The film ends as dawn obscures the shower with morning light.

Installation view of Sharon Lockhart at Gladstone Gallery, 2022 (© Sharon Lockhart. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery)

Lockhart’s film has the quality of a living painting, recording all of the movements and visual and environmental changes that occur in the landscape throughout the course of the night. By setting up a fixed shot with a central vanishing point she gives equal space to the sky and the shore; The meteor shower does not compete with the activities below for attention, but rather enhances them.

Two galleries of additional artworks accompany the film. The first, which leads into the EVENTIDE viewing room, contains a series of large, untitled works from 2020 through 2022. In these pieces, Lockhart experiments with the photographic method of cyanotyping through multiple exposures in between layers of dye, blurring the boundaries between photograph, print, and painting. The abstract images first appear to be all black, but they reveal various tones and depths upon close inspection. The third and final room at Gladstone serves as an elegy to Lockhart’s friend and mentor, artist Mike Kelley, on the 10th anniversary of Kelley’s death. The two complementary pieces inspired by the Japanese practice of Ikebana show grief as both destructive and generative: in the photograph “Mike” (2021), a broken jug sits next to a whole one with green plants in it, and “Whiskey Jug, Broken Whiskey Jug” (2021) captures “Mike”‘s fractured vessels in cast bronze sans flora.

EVENTIDE, paired with a small selection of other works, is a near-spiritual glimpse at the enormity of our planet, encompassing life, death, and the cosmos. Lockhart finds the beauty in acts big and small and shows our connectedness in the universe. EVENTIDE is a testament to both her skill as an artist and a storyteller — able to bring a cosmic event and its majesty back down to Earth.

Installation view of Sharon Lockhart at Gladstone Gallery, 2022 (© Sharon Lockhart. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery. Photography by Daniel Greer)
Sharon Lockhart, “Whiskey Jug, Broken Whiskey Jug” (2021), polished bronze, bronze with patina in two parts. Polished Jug: 11 x 8 5/8 x 8 5/8 inches; broken Jug: Dimensions variable (© Sharon Lockart. Courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, and neugerriemschneider, Berlin. Photography by Daniel Greer)

Sharon Lockhart Continues at Gladstone Gallery (515 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through February 26.

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