"Time Dilation" An Exhibit of Daniel Arsham

Michael J. Snell

Lifestyles Contributor

Time Dilation, a show that marks a departure from Daniel Arsham’s normal repertoire, combines the full range of his artistic talents. It’s been almost a decade since we have seen one of Arsham’s painted works publicly, and sadly for us (until now), he had chosen to keep them private.

In a combination of what feels like a neoclassic revamp on time-defiant archaeology, Arsham presented this collection alongside his signature crystallized sculptures, including characters from the Pokémon Universe as well as classical objects from antiquity. The object channeled his ability of sculpting as well as the origin of his talents, which stem from painting and drawing. These two trajectories allow for an artistic arrival - the center of an artist’s innate fascination of what happens when the foreseen difference of elapsed time occurs between two objects placed at different distances from a gravitating mass. This has been translated into a 21st-century dialogue known as Time Dilation, or the blending of time.

Showcased at the famed Perrotin gallery in New York, the exhibition is one of the first to encompass the entirety of the three-floor gallery. Limited to individual appointment times, small groups reserved viewing slots weeks in advance for the two-week-long public show. The collection, which featured a striking combination of mixed mediums, highlighted Arsham’s ability to combine classical fundamentals with his signature crystalline eroded aesthetic and time preservation in resin.

When entering, viewers were greeted by a bronze bust of Jupiter, whose original work is owned and housed at the Louvre in Paris. Ornate unto itself, Arsham has further detailed the piece with hand-polished bronze and steel crystal fragments. As you walk through the exhibit, a recurring theme can be found with many of his pieces, even with the bust of Jupiter as countless other sculpted works resurface in the paintings also included in this collection. This style of capriccio painting unearths the playful combination of architectural fantasy by intertwining classic sculpture within a painted form, something Arsham has done with his modern interoperations of each classically reincarnated piece.

“When we look at sculpture from antiquity or the Renaissance or really any period, those were the popular culture of that era,” he says. “I’m trying to think about how would these things be looked at in the future, especially if you’re not able to understand the context in which we understand them?” he asked. Arsham partnered with the RMN-Grand Palais in Paris, who granted him access to their archive of rarities and molds, all instrumental in the curation of this show.

As you explore further into the collection, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a life-size Charmander cast in hydrostone with selenite and quartz or even a blue calcite eroded E.T. Video with beautiful crystal fragments – available for purchase at $22,000.

Arsham’s curiosity spans further as you reach the second floor, where he created vignette groupings of works all sub-illuminated through their resin castings. Iconic pieces of now-obsolete technology, which include generation one cellphones, VHS cassettes, computer keyboards and even classic film cameras, are paired with iconic items like the Etch-a-Sketch or a Captain Crunch boxes to create a colorful, multi-layer representation of time, blended and visible through each other. Each grouping of items gives the viewer a look through times’ evolution, creating a layered story taken back through the iconography that shapes our memories.

On the third floor, you’ll experience Arsham’s curiosity with Pokémon, which have been influenced by Japanese mythology, now morphed and translated into their own 21st-century version. Having partnered with the Pokémon company, Arsham was granted access to the original founding pieces of work, allowing him to then translate the two-dimensional figures into the life-size sculpted and eroded works. This was one of the busier sections of the show and had a younger demographic scampering to see each piece. Some stopped and studied while others pulled out matching Pokémon cards from their pockets to take photos alongside the piece.

This exhibition contains some of the most iconic works he has ever created. Sculpting, painting and challenging perceptions while creating confusion are why Arsham feels art is worth making. “That’s where, as an artist, the viewer should be placed,” he said. “In a location where they’re forced to question something. It’s like magic, right? You’re forced to question your own relationship with objects and the universe.”

Michael J. Snell Lifestyles Contributor Polo Lifestyles 2021