Elizabeth Ashe
Miles Greenberg: The Embrace

The Faurschou Foundation, headed by onetime art dealer Jens Faurschou,  opened its 12,000 sq ft. New York museum exhibition space  in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York in 2019 in a redesigned former shoe factory, continuing in the tradition of its museums in Copenhagen and Beijing of showing the work of contemporary artists and foster cross-cultural exchange, especially between the global east and west. Having shown since 2019 artists including Al Wei Wei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Tracey Emin, Anselm Kiefer, Ragnar Kjartansson, Liu Wei, Paul McCartney, Shirin Neshat, Gabriel Orozco, Robert Rauchenberg, Bill Viola, Dan Ho and more, the present show features work by Louise Bourgeois, Yoko Ono and Miles Greenberg does not shy away from politics. Continuing  comment on the human condition following the first December 2019 show, “The Red Barn Grows in the South” which included themes of violence, war, olitivs, idealism, escapism, desire, hopes and memory, (from the catalogue essay)  this show  speaks to  the condition of the world and its people.

The one story space with incredible space and high ceilings was chosen to allow for the large installations preferred by the Curators of the foundation..  They have taken full advantage of the space, showing work  that reflects the environmentally conscious and artistically  adventurousness of the foundation.  The latest exhibit, open on April 1, Embrace the World from Within  showcases the work of Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois, and Miles Greenberg, each with their own massive room. Each installation embraces the body in a set space, whether the body connects to Classical sculpture, ultimately temporal and in/famous, or to the natural landscape.  In the first room is Greenberg’s piece, The Embrace. It is an endurance performance, where a “tender union of a couple becomes a sculptural form,” (entry wall text) – two mid-twenties Black men, nude but for skin-tone underwear, underneath a hot spotlight, sit on a boulder, atop six inches of salt water within a glass open-top cube, a 6’ or 8’ square. One is Greenberg himself. A drip of fresh water from overhead joins them and their reflection in the pool of saltwater. The room was  dark, lit only by the light above the performers, and leaked in from the other rooms. The performers  wore white contact lenses, blinding them, making them color blind to each other. The contact lenses reminded me of the uncanniness of Classical sculptures – perfectly muscled bodies, with blank, full eyes, set with elements of nature, standing against time itself. The lenses made them unable to see the viewers filling the room. The intimacy of the performers, and how they held one another, was elegant. They communicated through touch, holding one another safe on the boulder. When one needed to shift, they shifted. Towards the end of the evening, one had to tap out for a few minutes. The remaining one, curled up and hugged himself. This brief shift from two to one, changed what ‘intimacy’ looked like. As one, his body curled up almost like a rock himself, ducked away from the light. Together, they shielded so much of themselves, and the world outside of their rock didn’t matter.
The audience could que up in the far corner for ice cream in paper cups, which made for an interactive, sensory, full-contrast individual hug in comfort-food, extra torture and heightened sensitivity. Enjoy a treat in a dim room, while the performers’ sweat collected and dripped down a leg, into the salt water.  Greenberg studied under Marina Abramović (who attended part of opening night), and endurance works often include thick white contact lenses for the performers and an element of liquid. The performance of “Embrace” returns Saturdays from 1-7pm.
Louise Bourgeois: Nature Study

“One day let’s be a pair of trees

Nobody’ll know that the trees had
Such a history”
“Dogtown”, by Yoko Ono
You are water
I’m water
We’re all water in different containers
That’s why it’s so easy to meet
Someday we’ll evaporate together
But even after the water’s gone
We’ll probably point out to the containers
And say, “that’s me there, that one.”
We’re container minders
For Half-A-Wind Show, Lisson Gallery, London 1967
The Yoko Ono room has two projects, Ex It and Water Talk. Ex It, realized several times in the last twenty-five years, greets you with row upon row of young trees – cherry trees in full and shedding bloom, pine, and I think ornamental pear and another fruit tree – planted in raw pine coffins. Bird songs play overhead. The coffins have squared, open holes where a face would be for each mature sapling, and contain enough dirt for several years of growth. But one day, they will break through from their roof-bound coffins, exiting in the need for more sustenance. The bird songs fade with visitors talking, but the song never stops. The coffins themselves are the meta of trees – pines contain more water than other species, so much so that we consider them an easy and replaceable building material with less commercial value than hardwoods. Pine is harvested and then hidden by construction, pauper coffins, or paper. These young trees have reached a certain value, a certain beauty, but are so much stronger in this art forest where some branches touch, and some coffins are child-sized. In most versions of the installation, there are 100 coffins – ten for children, forty for women, sixty for men, and although I didn’t count, it feels like there are more at Faurschou New York. Will the skylights in the distant ceiling provide enough sun? Will they be left to die slowly? How many visitors will sit on the coffins, admiring the trees? Even in coffins, this is a room of hope and dreams for all of our own eventual exits, with one life serving the next. There is a deep-set resilience and life in this installation, as if the dead partner were the pine box, embracing the continued life of the tree within and unseen birds. Even boxed in, life continues. There is a wide sky to grow and sing in. “Ex It” was also exhibited at the Faurschou Foundation in Beijing.

Yoko Ono: Ex It Fallen Cherry Blossoms
Along the far-left wall is “Water Talk,” a row of lidded, glass jars on a white shelf. On each jar is a small, handwritten label in Japanese of the name represented by the water. Directly on the viewer-edge of the white shelf, the name is written in English with white vinyl letters. The names are those of artists, politicians, thinkers, the famous and the infamous. Lennon and Ono, are several jars distant from each other. Vincent van Gogh is beside Ai Weiwei, David Bowie by John Cage, Bill Gates by Osama Bin Laden, and Lao Tzu – who wrote “the best of men is like water,” is flanked by Samuel Beckett and Genghis Khan.  I hope to imagine the conversations they could have while they slowly evaporate, sipped at by the air.  Volumes of human history can be attributed to these names. And if you cannot read English or Japanese, they are all just water, purely the same. They are still, stripped and bared down to nothing but a name and a jar of water. Water can become whatever it needs to be.. As the word “vessel” shares a history with “concept,” both of Yoko’s projects simplify idea and embrace. Basing each identity off our core element, proves that water holds so much potential and sameness across all life.
Louise Bourgeois
Bourgeois’ six sculptures are in the final room. After each sculpture, there is a dimly lit pause and several steps – providing plenty of room to examine each in the round, as well as from a distance in an almost haunting way. They serve as chapters and represent major themes in her work. Of the six, three grab me most in illustrating the “Embrace” theme. Beginning from the left is a definitely pink, six-breasted, pawed and headless Nature Study, 1984-1996. It has been cast in many materials and patinas, and according to the Tate’s catalogue,  Louise Bourgeois, 2007, the artist considered it “self-portrait, an animal metamorphosis {…} combining fertility symbols {…} with that of a household guardian.” For her, pink was femininity and happiness, while the multiple breasts are a nod to a fierce maternity that is both male, female, god, goddess, guardian. The haunches and uprisen pose are vigilant, ready to be mother and ready to launch into a protective role. Like her Maman series, Nature Study hits her core theme of maternity and developing an archetype in her work, based on classical mythological roots.  In the middle hangs Fée Couturière, 1963, (“Fairy Dressmaker” or tailorbird) with opposing spotlights, casting two solid shadows on the ground. Painted white, it looks timeless, a cliff dwelling for fairies turned into a wishing star. A giant, multi-caverned bird nest. I don’t know if it’s the white paint or the number of closed-off caves, the triangular psychology of those caves, or the rough-shaped texture, but it feels lighter than its cast shadows. Like it is full of possibility to be worn and taken on by several individuals in all sizes and needs for dress.  In the far corner, The Blind Leading the Blind, 1947-49. I love it for its simplicity and pose directly on the ground, for the many tiptoed, spike-referential bodies connected and leading one another at the arm, waist or head, depending on the viewer. The board connecting them is the weight of the world, the point of their connection, and confined isolation. Their totemic shape feels like it doesn’t matter which way they go — they can go forward, back, upward, be self-reflective – what matters is they embrace one another.
An embrace is so universal across species – it’s the first instinct after seeing a friend. It’s one of the most important points of connection. The importance of a hug is one of those sincere yet simple lessons across generations. As a form of given communication, hugs can be comfortable, or uneasy, or desperately needed. “Embrace the World from Within” is the perfect, encapsulating title for these works by Ono, Bourgeois, and Greenberg. As projects in and of themselves, they fully embraced their elements. For viewers, each gave a different experience and level of interaction in these spaces.