Reach Ruin

When Daniel Arsham was 12, he hid in a closet while Hurricane Andrew tore his family’s house to shreds.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia

Through mid-March

Daniel Arsham’s new exhibition makes the most of a terrifying memory, said When the future artist was 12, he hid in the closet of his family’s Miami home while 1992’s Hurricane Andrew tore the house to shreds. “The experience left him with some unforgettable images: decimated drywall, shattered glass, pink insulation turned to mush, and warped aluminum studs.” Such details appear repeatedly in “Reach Ruin,” a show that takes its name from an anagram of “hurricane” and spreads a series of multimedia works across two floors. “Expect the unexpected” as you wander about. One space is crowded with 11 jaggedly cut drywall columns that “look like an eroding forest.” When you approach Storm—a freestanding wall with a cavity at its heart—the work emits sensor-activated bursts of light, wind, and Mozart.

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Storm “re-creates the sound and fury of Andrew—sort of,” said Edward Sozanski in The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” the work comes off as “a relatively pallid evocation of the real thing.” More successful is Occupant, an installation created when four dancers, shown in a video, drew arcs on the floor using plaster sculptures of cameras. The graceful tracings that remain from the dance generate a mood of tranquility in a show largely fixated on destruction. Even more effective, though, are two sculptures on the first floor. In Wrapped Figure, a wall seems to swallow a man walking past it. In Hollow Figure, an “ingeniously molded” sheet of fiberglass traces the features of a man we don’t see when we circle to look behind it. More than Storm, these works evoke the individual’s powerlessness in the face of nature’s mighty force.

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