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  • 5.0 star rating
    First to Review

    Midtown never ceases to amaze me. I tend to avoid it but when I do go there I always come across some weird surprise. Granted, this time it wasn't such a surprise because it was what I was looking for--but surprising nonetheless. In a nondescript building on Madison Ave., on the fourth floor (up a very large stairwell that could only have been built before WWII, and had the wooden bannisters to match, but also some hideous burgundy carpeting from the 70s) is a small art gallery called Front Desk Apparatus, which has apparently been there since 2006, though I'd never heard of it until recently, when it had an exhibition of work by Carissa Rodriguez that I wanted to see.

    The works were all small things or small gestures made in the space of the gallery, like a set of four slender fluorescent bulbs installed in a square around an empty light fixture. A rack of post cards featured (among other cards) photos of the works on display in other places. One shelf had a few unevenly shaped ceramic cylinders, the kind of thing you'd make in seventh-grade art class when you're supposed to produce a mug, but they were studded with rows of razor blades. So it's humble and threatening at once. One was upside down (or right-side up, if it's a cup), so you could see it was hollow. I gently tilted another one just to see if it was light as I expected, and it was, so it was surely hollow too. The way the shelf was set up made--the one glimpse into the unglazed belly of the ceramics, and the prickly garden of razors that were just barely planted into the glaze of the clay on the outside--really made me curious about the inside and the outside of the things, and left me with a sense that boundaries between the surface and interior aren't necessarily where I'd think they would be.

    Art installed in a gallery office can be an awkward situation, and usually I just won't bother going up for a close look unless I know someone who is working there. Otherwise it's like you're intruding in their personal space and interrupting their work. But at Front Desk Apparatus I glimpsed a big print of a tongue on the office's back wall and decided to venture in for a look. I was glad I did. After passing the partition that blocked off the work area on my way toward the print I discovered that the guy working there was really hot (but not in an intimidating way) and he was happy to answer my questions and offer more information about the work. The print was a big photo of the artist's tongue, and she'd had her dermatologist write on it in a marker about the various health problems that aspects of the tongue indicated--the raw white and red spots that showed she'd been eating poorly, etc. What really blew my mind was the note that these scalloped ridges around the tongue's edge indicate problems with the spleen. This lump of flesh in the gateway to the inside of our bodies is relatively far away from the internal organs of the gut yet it is totally connected to them and the shape of it changes dependent on their condition. Bodies are wild.

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