56 HENRY is delighted to present Leaves of Absence, Cynthia Talmadge's first solo exhibition in New York. Comprising a meticulous installation mimicking the dormitory of a Boston rehab center, and a related large-scale photograph, the exhibition will be on view from January 13 through March 6, 2017.
This is the latest iteration of a project for which Talmadge painstakingly conceived and constructed four distinct rooms in her Brooklyn studio, later photographing each staged tableau. Her sets resembled a dormitory at one of four well-known American psychiatric hospitals or chemical-dependency treatment centers, but with an unnerving aesthetic cohesion–as if an anonymous interior decorator had slyly coordinated each room's tonal palettes. In face, the rooms–purporting to be dormitories at McLean, Hazelden, Sierra Tucson, and Promises–are near identical facsimiles, differing only by color scheme. Each is pegged to one of the four seasons, charting a year-long odyssey of rest, retreat, and attempted recovery.
In the main gallery of 56 HENRY, Talmadge has rebuilt her version of a patient bedroom at McLean, the Northeastern rehab and psychiatric facility notable for its literary alumni, including Sylvia Plath and David Foster-Wallace. This artificial space, simultaneously spare and theatrical, is visible through the gallery's front window, as well as through an aperture in a purpose-build interior wall that partitions the set from the rest of the gallery. The prevailing mood is institutional, almost monastic: a dark green linoleum floor, a gridded drop ceiling, and a stiff twin bed made with perfect hospital corners.
A small wall calendar notes that it is November: a window offers a view of lush New England foliage, or at least a photograph of the turning leaves. Self-help books – Hope, Faith, & Courage – are neatly stacked on the bed, the colors of their covers obsessively coordinated with other personal items: a canvas tote, a mug, a pennant, a sweatshirt emblazoned with McLean's name. The items recall the paraphernalia hawked at any prep-school or Ivy League gift shop: in keeping with such branding efforts, Talmadge has created an editioned line of totes, sweatshirts, pennants, and mugs in conjunction with the exhibition.
In a space adjacent to the McLean set, Talmadge has hung a nearly life-sized photograph depicting a similar dormitory at Hazelden, the well-known Minnesota treatment facility. In this image we are frozen in the month of January: the set is nearly identical, down to its attendant props, though the room and its objects are dressed in cold whites, lavenders, and pale pinks. Through the faux-window we see a snowy Midwestern winter scene. The palette and particulars may have changed, but in some ways it is just another season, another rehab.
Cynthia Talmadge (b. 1989) lives and works in New York City. She received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been featured in group presentations at Aperture Foundation, New York, and JOAN, Los Angeles. This is her first exhibition with 56 HENRY.