Is this a Greek Tragedy?
The gallery opens like a stage. Black silk sweeps across the floor. Three figures rise from a sea of ??mourning, to the left and to the right, symbols of death and silent lament.
The front, however, bears an integral helmet wired internally with speakers and an audio track - the mask of Darth Vader rendered anonymous. A phantom between good and evil - for the good was still in him before he crossed to the dark side. And at last, in death, in the end, he folds, a merciful act by itself.
Whoever wants to become a Jedi for a moment, creeps under this black cataphract - attached to the massive sea-cloak - hears voices: those of the living and the dead. Chloe Piene's theatrical-futuristic "Family Constellation" is experienced as the centerpiece, of a greater scene. Flanking the great cape, behind on the wall, hang ten strangely stiff and mute black-and-white "Tape and Paper Drawings", eternal companions to this tense, and suspenseful audio drama. For 22 minutes, you, the viewer are witness, observer, and family member - part of the performance, embedded in the ancestral line. You are a woven through the family of this American German Jewish artist, drawn and dragged and pulled along an experience that includes the Diaspora, the Shoa, the Holocaust, Flight, Emigration, that of your Chosen Home and of being seen and known as A Stranger.
In the Tape and Paper Drawings, recurring archetypes live: "Mother", "Father", "Sister", "Brother". In one, the artist combines the face of her living daughter with that of her own, thus creating a creature of this two-faced vision, both real and imagined.
Piene, who studied Art History at Columbia University and concentrated specifically on Northern Renaissance Art, the "rebirth of antiquity", makes images - audible - as told by this constellation of characters inside the helmet and outside on the wall. It is a story of belief, love, hope and death; the will to live or to resign - of abandonment and heroic transformation. Also of fugitives, violence, friends and foes; of forefathers, and sacrifice committed and etched into the line of ancestry. Piene imagines people to whom she is closely connected. Present also are family members who she has or has not ever touched, or seen, and whose life she recalls in a search of mere a trace, that she can feel. And of those that were dark, or negative, these she makes visible, and releases. Chloe Piene gives the voice to the dead. From something destructive she makes something truly good, truly strong. To all, and to her, something that lived was never in vain. As far as death is concerned, she says much in her collages, which she calls Paper and Tape Drawings, their deep black tones, and iconic poses - stare at you with human eyes. Everything in this is pure art, especially in the works on paper flanking the "Great Cloak." They are reminiscent of Avant Garde photomontages from the time of Dada after 1916, during the Weimar Republic, in a magical, almost surreal way, at once delicate and completely brutal.
She has said, and also shows - through image and sound - how her especially close friends and colleagues - in real life - reflect a family. A family that is in some ways closer and more real than that of her blood family - however: in this situation, she, and you, and they, could never experience one without the other.

JANURY 20, 2017