Text: Alec Coiro
Images Courtesy of Bridget Donahue
In a highly transcontinental move, Susan Cianciolo has two shows up in two countries. The London show at Modern Art we covered earlier this month. The sister show is on Bowery at the gallery of Susan’s old friend and ours, Bridget Donahue. There was a one-week overlap between the shows, and you just missed it. So now if you want to experience Cianciolo’s latest work, you will have to go to New York show entitled RUN PRAYER, RUN CAFÉ, RUN LIBRARY, which compliments the Modern Art show, RUN church, RUN Restaurant, Run Store largely by applying the same principles and artistic approach to different aspects of what I’ll call — for lack of a better term — civil society.
The show conjures through the same mechanism as the totem or the chuppah or even something less formal and more primal, like a child’s fort. The show is composed of structures that are crafted in the Cianciolo way. If you know her only by her works on paper or by her clothing, you would still recognize these structures as hers. However, they are also characterized by how sparse their designs and they are functional more in a symbolic way than a practical way (which holds true to the Cianciolo way). It is thus incumbent on the viewer to create the meaning of the structures, which is likely why Cianciolo offers her brilliantly conceived kits. These kits are boxes are objects created around a theme, and because they are kits, they inherently call out to be put to use — such is the nature of a kit.
Symbolic though the larger structures may be, I also find myself considering how much structure does a library need? The choice of subject matter is also important in both of these shows, asking why you must go to the library to read, why you must go to church to pray.
The intention and power of the work, particularly its spellbinding power over the people who engage with it were on display at the opening — which we also covered recently. There was a call to participate in a spiritual way, and something happened. We reported back with pictures of what happened in or blog-ish style. But we failed to capture the experience or the essence. It is certainly no accident that Cianciolo works in many media, but none of the social media or blogs. The social for her remains the actual social. So we cover her work here not to attempt to reproduce or communicate the experience, but to rather recommend you go experience it for yourself.