Nicelle Beauchene Gallery is pleased to present The Outskirts, a new video installation by Jonathan Ehrenberg.
Ehrenberg’s videos are set in oneiric spaces governed by the laws of instinct and intuition rather than those of the physical world. These spaces disarm through contradictions: handmade from rough materials, they are sensitively, intricately lit to viscerally evoke nuanced environments, times of day, emotions. Ehrenberg draws on the unique capacity of silent film to create a partnership between artist and viewers, who, in interpreting narrative clues, complete the story and project themselves onto the characters. Sculpted masks worn by the characters accentuate this effect. A screen for viewer’s projections, their simplified, immobile faces become strangely expressive even as they limit communication to the more primal language of the body.
Inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Castle, The Outskirts, Ehrenberg’s second solo show with the gallery, expands his engagement with setting and storytelling. From the sky to every face that looks up to see it, the artist has created a world in which every surface bears his painterly touch. Traversing this expansive landscape, The Outskirts ranges from slapstick to surreal, puncturing narrative to expose the disjointed strangeness of the human experience.
A man lost in the woods finally fixes on a destination: a castle on a distant hill. On his way there, he becomes entangled with a pair of buffoonish, child-like assistants and a woman he believes
can help him achieve his goal. The three offer the man a sudden domestic life and identity that just as suddenly slip through his fingers.
The Outskirts explores the relationship between two seeming opposites: the forest, which acts as a site of confusion, and the castle, which acts as a seeming beacon of clarity. As the protagonist moves from one to the other, listing unsteadily from encounter to encounter, the distinction between order and chaos blurs. The castle remains an elusive goal—perpetually out of reach. Filtered through Ehrenberg’s subjective lens, the protagonist’s journey becomes a universal allegory for a desire to transcend self that leads to the attachment of fantastic importance to an external symbol, to building a castle of purpose from the sand of uncertainty.
Jonathan Ehrenberg received his BA from Brown and his MFA from Yale University. His work has been included in exhibitions internationally, including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York; Cabinet, Brooklyn; LAXART, Los Angeles; David Castillo, Miami; Futura Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, and Galeria Espacio Minimo, Madrid. Ehrenberg lives and works in New York.
The musical score for The Outskirts was written by Timothy Andres.