The press release for Glen Fogel’s With Me…You, a solo exhibition at New York’s PARTICIPANT, INC., sets up the viewer for an exhibition about absence. In a letter to the FedEx claims department, he explains that he has gone through the heavy task of borrowing the wedding rings from women in his family in order to photograph and film them, and his mother’s, sent via FedEx and insured for $6000, had been stolen out of its box. Using the simple, yet sufficiently sentimental language needed to invoke sympathy in a large corporation, he asks for the economic reimbursement despite the knowledge that the personal history contained within it cannot be recuperated.
Once you’ve entered the gallery, however, you are confronted, in a five channel, floor to ceiling video installation, of the absolute presence of five of these rings, which of course includes the aforementioned ring belonging to Fogel’s mother, now acting as a type of memorial. Their monumental scale puts on view the flaws and miniscule details which have most likely remained unseen even to the wearer who has lived with it for decades. Removed from their owners, the rings are rotated on gyroscopes and at times shot with a star filter to create a set for display similar to those on the Home Shopping Network, reaching the ultimate level of objectification. Though their visual cues may be taken from low-brow retail, in their epic size they become hyper-real, depersonalized and thus corporate, a quality underscored by the incidental, disruptively loud (but easily identifiable) sound of a text message on an iPhone. The aesthetic appeal of these objects is undeniably powerful, with a long checklist of overt symbolism: love, devotion, tradition, institution, and so on and so on. Instead, here these rings exist as freestanding objects on these exaggerated pedestals, with a definitive lack of human presence. In future iterations of With Me…You, the video installation will be accompanied by documentation surrounding the procurement of the rings, such as videos of Fogel’s trips to his family, phone calls and emails; but in this current version, the rings present themselves as anonymous, intimidating, yet still somehow desirable objects. This becomes especially clear with one ring which no longer holds any stones; it becomes a jarringly empty frame, which is still given the same idealized treatment as all the others.
For Fogel, taking personal ephemera or experience and creating objective, beautifully made representations of them, is what he excels at. Accompanying the video installation are two works from an ongoing series of paintings of love letters written to Fogel throughout his life, From Jamie, August 20 and From Lucas, date unknown (both 2010). The letters are heartbreakingly authentic, complete with scrawled handwriting, crumpled paper from years of reading and re-reading, and the awkward, dramatic language of emotional release. These too are obviously blown up from their original scale and made to be viewed with the utmost of clarity, but appear diminutive next to the video installation, meek and confused despite their flawless execution and immortalization by Fogel. After all, emotions are volatile, but diamonds are forever.
all images are views from Glen Fogel, With Me…You, 2011. Courtesy of PARTICIPANT INC.