By the latter half of the twentieth
century, a new breed of artist began
engaging audiences in physical experiences involving multiple sensations.
We expect to view art in a museum,
and maybe hear sound. But it requires
some cognitive reorientation when
we’re invited to touch, smell, and even
taste the art.
To fully immerse yourself in the pleasures of Out of Sight! Art of the Senses,
now on exhibit at the Albright-Knox Art
Gallery, it’s going to take six senses—
the five usual ones, plus a sense of fun.
The contemporary artists represented
here create works that seduce the nos-
trils, charm the tongue, tingle the flesh,
and captivate the ears, with plenty left
to dazzle the eyes. About half the work
assembled by museum director Janne
Sirén, deputy director Joe Lin-Hill, and
chief curator Cathleen Chaffee comes
from the museum’s collection; the rest
are on loan. Only three of the artists
are American-born, reflecting the glo-
balization of contemporary art and a
move away from Western domination.
From the very start of the show, you
know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Valeska Soares’s ironically titled Faint-
ing Couch invites visitors to lie down
on a sleek, utilitarian stainless steel
slab, permeated with tiny holes. Victo-
rian era fainting couches were meant
to accommodate “fragile” women who
felt lightheaded, or experienced “hyste-
ria.” In Soares’s version, fresh Stargaz-
er lilies release a perfume from within
the sculpture. I may be olfactory chal-
lenged, because I could only detect
the faintest scent, but the hard surface
(with pillow) was oddly comfortable
After curing themselves of hysteria, guests enter the exhibition proper
through Felix Gonzalaz-Torres Untitled
(Water), a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall
curtain comprising blue and clear bead
strands that suggest a waterfall. The
effect is one of passing through a clattering membrane into another realm.
On the other side, a visitor favorite
awaits. The Mirrored Room, by Lucas
Samaras, is a chamber of infinite reflections that envelop visitors amids innumerable gleaming shapes and angles.
No title (folding table and chairs,
beige) by Robert Therrien follows. It’s
a gigantic card table set, stunning in its
precise detail, that provides a new perspective on the familiar.
A softer kind of precision exists in
Do Ho Suh’s Weilandstr, a diaphanous
green full-scale reproduction of the hallway in a Berlin apartment where the
artist previously lived. The elaborate
On View/Making senses of art
BY BRUCE ADAMS
What do you see when you enter an art museum? Visual
art, right? Our concept of artwork revolves around visual
perception, the act of seeing. But in life, the human body
relates to the world around us through an aggregate of the
senses. Our brains are wired for multisensory perception.
That’s why we may look at something we made years ago
and recall a song that was playing at the time, or think of
grandma when we smell fresh-baked cookies.
Robert Therrien, No title (folding table and chairs, beige)
Opposite page: Heri Dono, Bidadari (Flying Angels); Lucas Samaras, The Mirrored Room