Spencer Finch Makes Breakable Fog

THE DAILY PIC: At James Cohan, Spencer Finch renders evanescent mists in utterly solid materials.

THE DAILY PIC (#1684): The most important thing about the Renaissance discovery of perspective wasn’t that its paintings managed be so much like the real world. It was that they managed to be so like the real, three-dimensional world while in fact being nothing more than patterns of paints spread across opaque, flat little surfaces. The magic of the new art lay in that gap between reality and representation.

That gap came to mind two days ago when I saw a piece called Thank You, Fog by New York artist Spencer Finch at James Cohan gallery in New York. The work purports to capture the sensation of being lost in a fog bank, but it does that by means of the least fog-y materials imaginable: a crowd of crisp, glossy, hard-edged panes of glass, fogged-out with some kind of coating then suspended in a sort of Cubist “cloud” from the gallery ceiling. Come close enough to the 85 suspended panes, so not much else in the room is visible, and you do indeed get a sense of being lost in fog; you also become more and more aware of the absolute material solidity of the glass, as you risk knocking into its panes and starting a chain reaction of breakage.

Finch’s determined, quasi-scientific attempts to render atmospheric phenomena aren’t notable for their success; they matter because they wake us up to how close to impossible it is to render one phenomenon in the terms of another.

Renaissance paintings were sometimes conceived as windows onto other worlds. Thank You, Fog gives us those windows, and shows that they aren’t as transparent as we thought. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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