The Fussy Eye: All Wet

Please don’t wade in the artwork.

These days, museums need all the funding they can get. Hours are being cut and staff furloughed. Yet the Henry removed its old lobby gift shop two years ago, just when the economy went south, and turned it into an artist-run exhibition space. Now the Henry is reclaiming the room—but not to sell T-shirts or coffee mugs. The chiming and ringing you hear upon entering the museum is sweetly emanating from a blue children's wading pool—otherwise known as Untitled Series No. 2, a 1999 piece by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. He was originally trained as a composer; and you have to wonder if he studied John Cage, since the pool is an aquatic, aleatory installation—random silence and irregular pinging. The half-filled glasses and bowls gently careen off one another; and they seem tuned—by chance? intention?—with varying levels of water within. These delicate vessels bob and drift, like ships in search of safe harbor. To create a current, a little pump and some warming coils—like those used to heat a teacup—are perilously draped over the inflatable vinyl sidewalls. It seems like an invitation to flood and disaster—won't the coils melt the plastic? But if, one morning, visitors should find a dry, empty blue blob filled with broken crockery, the silence will tell them the show is over. In the meantime, there should be benches, so you can just sit and listen. (Through Sept. 26.) 

 
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