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Room With Askew: NYC Gravity Shack

Slanted room.Mystery Spots are not generally an urban phenomenon. Nor are they a common meeting place for the culturally highbrow.

But an installation at the new Julien Hoeber exhibit at Harris Lieberman Gallery in New York City finds inspiration in their ramshackle befuddlement, bringing an off-kilter sensibility to the gallery experience. This is one art show where you will actually hear shrieks and giggles.

Dominating the room, Hoeber’s DH#2 is a massive tilted structure, constructed primarily of plywood and metal studs. Step inside and your sense of balance is set adrift, your spatial orientation discombobulated. DH#2 is inspired by popular Mystery Spots like the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot and the Oregon Vortex — but sans admission fee and faux-picturesque bumpkin setting. Here you can examine the room from the outside to see how the illusion is created, which makes the effect no less amusing or alarming.

Slanted room.This is Hoeber’s second Mystery Spot. The first was exhibited at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, to the delight of 17,000 visitors. “Demon Hill” was described as “a meditative, austerely sensual conceptual art object and carny trap.”

All we know is that the opening must have been out-of-control: combine gravity-denying hijinks with unlimited cheap wine in plastic cups and you have one helluva party!

Hanging around for a while, we saw numerous gallery goers tentatively enter the structure. A warning on the wall cautions that one may experience “disorientation, dizziness, nausea and/or exhaustion” (not all that different from an afternoon at the tourist-choked, mall-like Museum of Modern Art). You may find yourself hugging the wall or freaking out in an aesthetically-interesting manner. A chair is conveniently placed (and anchored) so that you can sit down, catch your breath, and regain your bearings.

Slanted room from the outside.There is a satirical component as well. “Demon Hill” is a pun on “De Menil,” the famously rich art collecting family. So this installation serves as a three-dimensional, pointed commentary on the hype and illusion of the art world.

As Mystery Spots are fewer and farther between these days — the one at Knott’s Berry Farm closed in 2000 due to safety concerns and lack of handicapped access — it’s nice to see something provide a new “spin” on a classic roadside icon.

(The show runs through October 20th at 508 West 26th Street, Ground Floor, New York. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10-6.)
[Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

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