Review: Martin Roth at Louis B. James

Martin Roth exhibition untitled (debris) at Louis B. James, by Alejandro Jassan

Amongst the turmoil that has Syria shaking to its bones, more than 4 million people–mostly women and children–, have fled the country. Forcing four out of five Syrians to a state of poverty, this conflict has brougt to the forefront a different perspective to immigration. This sense of alienation, conflict and destruction, is pulled out from the news coverage into a gallery show for Martin Roth's third solo exhibition at Louis B. James.

The artist Martin Roth (b. 1977), is commonly associated with staged installations, where living animals and plants interact with the space–frogs, parakeets, bonsai trees. By shifting the viewership from a passive stance into an active role, Roth recreates scenes to be walked on, which would otherwise be inanimate. Rubble, dirt and steel create a hostile environment, where the only silver lining is the fate of the parakeets and toads–who will be relocated to their natural habitats respectively.

The Gallery is divided into two Divine-Comedy-esque scenarios, where light, sound and movement decrease towards the basement floor, as if stepping closer to Inferno. This room is filled with shallow water, housing at least a dozen bullfrogs raised to be served for restaurant food, whose eyes only glimmer with the aid of a red light tinting the room.

The show, Untitled (debris), comes just in time to ride the wave of museum-quality sociopolitical exhibitions, including Doris Salcedo's at the Guggenheim. The importance of looping these topics back into the artworld has proven effective to raise awareness to sensitive topics around contemporary diasporas. Not only this show succeeds to shed a light into Syria's current state of ruin and loss, but it lets the viewer into Roth's inconceivable world of destruction.

The exhibition is on view through October 18.

Louis B. James
143b Orchard Street
NY, NY 10002