Infra Structures is the title of Jan Tichy’s third solo exhibition with Fridman Gallery in New York. The exhibition comprises three bodies of recent work: the “Installations” series consisting of photo etchings; the light installation “Installation No. 43” ; and the four-channel video installation “Destroy All Monsters” (2022).
Jan Tichy: Infra Structures / Fridman Gallery, New York. Opening reception, January 11, 2023.
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Over the last two decades, Tichy has created over 40 projection installations which have been exhibited around the world. The installations deal with the encounter between the artist’s formal visual language and the context in which it is created. Tichy uses light to examine the way in which architectural structures, infrastructure and the public space are mandated by social, economic, political or national agents of power, and how they affect the fabric of society.
Tichy has coined the concept of ‘social formalism’ to describe his work. The Installations series continues his investigation and experiments with light as material. The series consists of 40 photo etchings (around half of which are on display in the exhibition), one print per installation. Tichy sought to move from the photographic medium to engraving and printing in order to rediscover light – this time outside of space – and to reveal a new range of shades and qualities of concentration and dispersion. Appropriately, Installations is having its U.S. debut at Fridman Gallery, which exhibited five of the installations over the last decade.
The site-specific installations that Tichy created with Fridman over the years have connected the gallery to the political, economical and social infrastructures of its environment. In 2014, Installation no. 20 (walls) questioned the very infrastructure of the gallery space; two years later, Installation no. 27 (Long Lines) examined the implication of telecommunication surveillance as manifested in the infrastructure of its architectural skeleton, the Long Lines building just south of the gallery’s then-current location in SoHo. In 2020, at the new gallery location, Installation no. 38 (Light Shop) focused on the lack of democratized light on the Bowery, contrasting conspicuous consumption, gentrification and nightlife with the dwindling presence of lighting stores in the area. The new Installation No. 43 activates objects that manifest decaying physical and political infrastructures, which the artist observed while at the gallery’s residency in Beacon, NY. The illuminated electrical cable perilously dangling from the ceiling of the gallery evokes rolling blackouts and bombed-out power stations in Ukraine, and the dangers inherent in power generated from fossil fuels.
Presented in the gallery’s basement media room is Tichy’s four-channel video installation Destroy All Monsters (2022), which mirrors the basement of Mike Kelley’s public artwork the Mobile Homestead located outside the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Kelly’s two underground basements are closed to the public, originally intended as creative spaces for the artist and his band Destroy All Monsters, named after the original Godzilla movie. Tichy was allowed into the underground space while developing a project for the Mobile Homestead. According to the house rules, the space is meant for creative purposes but the artwork cannot be exhibited on premises. Tichy watched the original 1968 film Destroy All Monsters in the darkness of the basement, lighting up the walls with the glowing light of his screen. Filming the flickering walls and re-projecting them into a new space, both creates and recreates the dark space with animated light. As we sense the violent flashes of Godzilla demolishing the physical infrastructure of the city, the light flickering in the basement suggests the erosion of seemingly impenetrable power structures above.
Jan Tichy is a contemporary artist and educator. Situated at the intersection of video, sculpture, architecture, and photography, his conceptual work is socially and politically engaged. Born in Prague in 1974, Tichy studied art in Israel before earning his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he is now Associate Professor in the Departments of Photography and Art & Technology Studies. Tichy has had solo exhibitions at the MCA Chicago; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; CCA Tel Aviv; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and the Chicago Cultural Center; among others. His works are included in public collections of MoMA in New York, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Magasin 3 Stockholm Kunsthal, Museum of Applied Arts (Frankfurt), Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), among others. Tichy’s large public-art projects engage communities and offer platforms for sharing. In 2011, Project Cabrini Green illuminated with spoken word the last highrise of the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago, and Beyond Streaming: a sound mural for Flint at the Broad Museum in Michigan in 2017 brought teens from Flint and Lansing to share their experiences of the ongoing water crisis. In 2018 Tichy was chosen as one of the inaugural artists for Art on theMart, a public art project in Chicago. He recently edited and curated Ascendants: the Bauhaus Handprints, a monograph of prints collected by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.