Review: Hans Haacke at Paula Cooper Gallery

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Photo courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery.

by Rachel Heidenry

It’s the sound that pulls you in first – the mechanical vibrations of water being pumped, of water being circulated. And then you enter.

On the floor of the Paula Cooper Gallery, Hans Haacke has installed an intricate network of transparent tubes that push water from two sources. The liquid travels quickly, weaving through the tubes like streams being pulled by rocks or currents. The effect is both tranquil and arresting – beautiful in its juxtaposition, yet frightening in its artificiality. You must move through it, stepping over tubes as water rushes past your feet in encased plastic. But you must also pick a spot and stand still, watching as the entire system repeats the same process over and over and over again.

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The piece, titled Together (2013), revisits the artist’s 1969 installation Circulation. Both works engage Haacke’s interest in systems and the interactions and interdependences within physical, biological and social structures. Long interested in the processes of how information is produced and distributed, Haacke once again delivers a project that is both technically investigative and socially probing. His work nearly always engages in institutional critique, particularly of cultural organizations and the economic realities they are embedded within.

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Photo courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery.

Included in the same room as Together is The Business Behind Art Knows the Art of the Koch Brothers. The piece is comprised of three framed photographs depicting the newly developed plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which include two prominent fountains funded by the Koch Brothers. The two end photos show close-ups of the fountains and its inscription “David H. Koch Plaza,” while the center photo shows a banner hanging from the MET that reads “The Business Behind Art Knows the Art of Good Business” – transposed from a leaflet published by the museum. Below the photographs, Haacke has mounted fake $100 dollar bills with close-ups of the fountain replacing Ben Franklin’s portrait. The bills cascade down the wall and onto the floor, rippling out along the gallery space.

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Putting the two works in the same space, Together and The Business Behind Art Knows the Art of the Koch Brothers become a symbol of the circulation of money, politics, and culture in American society. The mechanics of Together enables us as viewers to think about the interconnectivity of these worlds and invites us to ponder if and when it will ever stop.

The Hans Haacke exhibition is on view at Paula Cooper Gallery through November 22nd. The gallery is located at 521 West 21st Street in Chelsea.

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