The way I entered Eugene Lemay's exhibit was not the way I left it. At first glance I was baffled by what initially seemed like enormous black rectangles lining the gallery space. The size of the work left me feeling alienated and lost, aimlessly meandering through the gallery, not quite sure where it starts and ends, my eyes shifting from one enormous black abyss to the other.
So I went back to beginning. This time, I decided to navigate myself through this seemingly bleak space. Lemay previously served as a navigator in the Israeli army, which ended up being integral to how I approached this exhibition. He wants us to look into the darkness and discover what is really there. I would even go as far as to say the exhibition is interactive, inasmuch as you can act the role of navigator; I had more control over what I saw than I first perceived.
Of course, this is in no way a simulation of what it's like to be a navigator in the Israeli army, but it forces you to think about how real of a circumstance that is. Knowledge of Israel, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the Israeli military resurfaces as you come to terms with the context he is coming from.
I then stepped into these enormous black rectangles and it became a real, lived experience. Each painting is covered in Hebrew letters from deceased soldiers to their families. Suddenly the exhibition becomes less about you and your experiences and about the shared experiences of Lemay and the people he served with, documented by his artwork.
It's important to describe the Mike Weiss Gallery space. It's a narrow, long space, which facilitates Lemay's concept. The exhibition starts off bright, but as you walk down the gallery it gradually gets darker until you reach a small back room, unlit, where you'll find six iPads with hypnotic visuals.
The iPads did throw me off slightly, but then I remembered Bjork had endorsed the iPad on her recent Biophilia tour, and I really appreciated the fearlessness of artists engaging with new technologies and not rejecting them.
Lemay's Navigator demonstrates his fearlessness as an artist. He forces us to think about situations that most of us will never have to endure. We are immersed in darkness and are compelled to make sense of an initially confusing array of artwork. It is a rewarding exhibition that requires you to be a thoughtful, pensive spectator; it is a must-see.
Ms. Decaiza Hutchinson co-writes the BLASIAN.US website. The London native is now based in Brooklyn.