13 April 2016

Queen's Gambit Declined

Now open at MetaLES, curated by Romy Nayar and Ux Hax, is Queen's Gabmit Declined, a major installation by Rebeca Bashly. As is typical with the artist's work, it's bold, thematic and emotionally charged, in this case centering (at first glance, at least) on a enormous heart in sky, its bulging surface wrapped and held fast by ropes that are tightly anchored nearby, while thorns project from the organ's top, lending a crustacean-like appearance to its arteries and veins. The artwork's title refers a well-known opening in the game of chess, and one that can be harnessed by black to attempt to gain an advantage by declining an offer of a pawn from white (the Queen's Gambit, which is either accepted or declined).

Visitors arrive on a stone platform suspended high in the air, and look up to see the heart. Far off in the distance is a sister platform, and between these structures rests a large hedge maze over which the heart hovers; in the center of this maze rests a nude female figure (in a pool of blood, perhaps?), curled into a fetal position with the exception of one hand raised upward, gesturing at the vine growing from her back that reaches toward the sky (image below). (Curiously, the piece is called Magic Beans.) If one crosses to the second stone platform, a click on a black pawn offers a transport into the interior of the heart, where a beautiful and far more serene scene awaits, filled with black, bronze and emerald green (lowest image).

Although Rebeca's work probably defies conventional narrative, and its interpretation will no doubt be highly personal for each visitor, she and I had an interesting, if brief, exchange about it (all with a dose of tongue-in-cheek humor). "You know what it is about, the first few moves, and how much they count," she remarked. "Yes, if you're playing black," I replied, to which she cheerfully countered, "I always play black," adding, "That is the point, gaining advantage in inferior situations." "Yes, and there is beauty within," I suggested, to which she replied, "Challenge." Be sure to collect the free gift waiting at the landing point. Queen's Gabmit Declined should remain on display for at least a month.

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