The minimalist installation, which includes paintings and sculptures, explores ideas of memory and the uncanny within the context of modernist architecture. The subtly disorienting exhibition uses the connotations of cold temperature as a tool to freeze the viewer and space in a moment in time. The Lever House lobby floor is tiled in translucent white polyethylene, which unifies the clean architecture of the lobby to give it the appearance of being under a thin layer of ice. “I wanted to leave the space open as much as possible, so that you can see the architecture and so that it’s the architecture that determines what happens. It seemed like using the floor was the simplest way of separating the space from the rest of the world around it,” explains McEwen. Past and present are suspended in a refrigerator-like glass box, luring viewers to explore a series of objects that are detached from their former functional purpose but weighted with emotional and representational value.
The works in the show represent various archetypes of Americana and daily life. Life-size graphite sculptures of objects—which McEwen has described as “three-dimensional drawings of the idea of a thing”—are arrayed throughout the space, each embodying a dubious relationship to their function. A large safe is imposing but empty, a vault that promises much but delivers and secures nothing; a payphone of the kind seen until recently on every American street corner, now an anachronism, connects to nowhere. The other objects—a pickaxe, for digging; a clock, for registering diminishing time; a blister pack of birth control medication; a barbecue hood—are each banal and familiar, verging on the outdated. They are nonetheless freighted—differently for each viewer—with a charge of recognition and association.
The sponge paintings depict an embroidered patch of a hand in a V sign, a counterculture peace symbol from the 1970s and previously a V for Victory sign from World War II. In this frozen tundra, the peace sign sits in uncertain territory, and in an unclear relationship to its own declaration.
10, FEELS LIKE 2 explores the passage of time by dissecting McEwen’s fascination with form both in objects and architecture. Introspection sits at the heart of McEwen’s work. The installation explores the way that an artist searches for content, without neglecting the failures of that search. This installation, located within a physical manifestation of American optimism, a pinnacle of modernist architecture, asks the same questions of itself, and of the flash-frozen optimism of a window on Park Avenue.