When you walk by Art Produce Gallery in the next few weeks, you'll likely see a giant, deflated black plastic bag-like thing spread across the gallery floor.
But if you were one of the lucky few to stop by the gallery during this month's Ray at Night for the opening of artist Omar Lopez's installation, "In the Belly of the Whale in a Bell Jar," the big black plastic bag-like thing was being inflated to its full glory, then slowly deflated only to be inflated once again.
What's the point?
For the artist, it's about interacting with his audience, relinquishing control and exploring theater, displacement and occupancy. When people walked into his piece, he handed over a button, which was connected to a high-powered fan. He sat back and watched as complete strangers took over his installation, filling it up and letting it fall flat at will. Here's what he wrote about his installation on his Vimeo page:
An overwhelming installation that demands active participation from viewers. Participants take on the role of Creators, inflating a sculpture that will occupy the every cubic inch of the gallery space, like a soft bulldozer blossoming into a dominant but massless volume. Once the space has been completely filled, participants enter inside the sculpture and reclaim the entire gallery space. Inside the sculpture, possibilities for manifold dynamic forms are possible, and participant-controlled. An experiment in theatre, mass displacement , and occupancy. More than just another exploration of paradox, the dynamic element of the installation spawns anthropomorphic associations and emotive bonds between viewer and subject.
For me, though, the piece was more about invoking a sense of security—"It feels a little like you're in a womb," said Lopez while I sat inside the piece—followed by an intense, overwhelming sense of insecurity. As the big black mass began to deflate and close in around and on top of me, I felt the onset of some kind of claustrophobic outburst. But the second the fan kicked on again, the dark, warm space felt very zen.
Whatever your feelings when surrounded completely by a big black bag, a stop at Art Produce Gallery is certainly in store. Lopez is reportedly on site on Mondays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. You can also make an appointment by sending Lopez an email. The show is on view through April 3 and there will be two film screenings of The American Astronaut at 7 pm. March 24 and 31.