Over the past five weeks, the Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte has been spending a lot of time in New York, at the Luxembourg & Dayan gallery, transforming every inch of the historic Upper East Side townhouse into an unsettling, surreal universe that is equal parts dollhouse and haunted house.
“I wanted it to deal with memory,” Da Corte says of his immersive installation, Die Hexe, which opened last night. “When you go into a home and paint the walls, you’re camouflaging the experience of the person that was there before—but it’s still the same walls. Architecture preserves ghosts.” He has populated the gallery with not only his own work but also that of other artists, like Bjarne Melgaard, Mike Kelley and Robert Gober. “I’m treating them as found objects, not precious art,” Da Corte explains. A table by Melgaard, for example, is littered with fake candles and perfume bottles; a sink by Gober is hidden behind a door, and can only be seen through a peephole. (Da Corte will sell copies of these works he has produced in white—truly ghosts of the actual art.)
While Da Corte’s installation partakes of a dialogue about art objects and their value started long ago by Marcel Duchamp, it is also very personal. Some of the wallpapers and rugs mimic those in Da Corte’s grandmother’s house in Gloucester City, New Jersey. In a way, the show is an attempt to preserve her home—all the more urgent due to her deterioration from Alzheimer’s. (Fittingly, she made dollhouses.) This endeavor, Da Corte admits, is “already full of failure—like chasing any kind of memory.” But it is also, perhaps, a closer approximation of her current state of mind. “A replica of my grandma’s house through her eyes, which are shifting, is not a replica,” he explains. “It becomes a new space.”
“Alex Da Corte: Die Hexe” runs through April 11, 2015, at New York’s Luxembourg & Dayan, 64 East 77th Street.