Since he graduated from New World School of the Arts, Magnus Sodamin has kept himself pretty busy. His first show, "Into the Rainbow Vein," opened to rave reviews, he began a yearlong residency at the Deering Estate, and last Thursday he premiered the latest installment in his oeuvre: Infinity Split.
The work is a fully immersive Sodamin experience. It coats the walls of Primary Projects’ downtown gallery space from ceiling to floor.
“I was given the opportunity to do anything I wanted with it,” Sodamin says. Even though he was given full creative reign, the freedom didn’t come without limitation: “I only had a week to put it all together.”
Sodamin enjoys working under pressure. Late last year, he painted one side of Jose de Diego Middle School during Art Basel in just two days time and in the middle of a downpour.
However, Infinity Split is quite different from his past endeavors. The work is like walking into a colossal acid-drip painting, with swirling masses of color abstracting the huge space. It’s as if Doug Wheeler or James Turrell had a love child with Jackson Pollock.
Sodamin also hung large round canvasses from the ceiling, giving the work the illusion of depth. “At the Deering Estate, I kept going outside and taking still lifes of plants and flowers from the gardens using different lens filters. The circles sort of came out of those pictures,” he explains.
Holistically, the project recalls Robert Rauschenberg’s early attempts to extend a work of art's space beyond the two-dimensional limitations of a framed canvas. Reacting to the art critic Clement Greenberg’s assertion that art should be kept to its “sphere of competence,” Rauschenberg tried to push the conceptual and physical boundaries of artistic space.
Infinity Split isn’t limited to bits of stretched canvas over plywood; it doesn’t even draw the lines at the gallery’s walls. Colors drip onto the floor, where they swirl together, creating a work that you walk on and stand in rather than admire from an appropriate distance.
“Everyone's concern was that I wasn’t going to have the floor dry in time, but I knew at the right temperature and fan power, I could get it done. The fan's wind added to the directions of the flows, which carried paint up to 15-foot streams,” the artist says. “It is very whimsical and controlled at the same time.”
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Sodamin forces onlookers to bend their bodies and crane their necks to take in the small details of the massive work. It’s a statement on the organization of the gallery space, but more than that, it questions the place of contemplation in a world increasingly dominated by spectacle.
Playing with that idea, Skrillex took over the space this past Sunday for DJ a set topping off the week of Winter Music Conference. Together with Primary Projects, the DJ switched the cold fluorescent lighting into black lights that completely changed the feel of the space.
If you’re curious, Sodamin set up a corner of the room with a black light so visitors could get a taste of what they were going for. In the corner its one of his “aliens,” a mannequin with a printed veil artfully draped over it. It’s simultaneously creepy and childlike.
If you didn’t get a chance to check out Sodamin’s Infinity Split with a sound system blasting EDM beats this past week, don’t worry. The work will be on exhibit until April 26. Check out Primary Projects’ website for hours and availability.
For the young artist, Infinity Split is one big step in the evolution of his aesthetic. For many up-and-comers, the struggle to define a voice that is both distinct and assertive can prove troublesome. In just a few short years, Sodamin has created a work that has a clear, identifiable aesthetic, and that is no easy feat.