Metropolitan Museum of Art, Met Fifth Avenue
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden
1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.
Daily through October 29 (weather permitting)
Recommended admission: $25 adults, children under twelve free
theater of disappearance slide show
In 2014, Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas installed “The Evolution of God” on the High Line, cement and clay blocks that deteriorated over time, revealing such artifacts as clothing and sneakers while grass and plants grew in the cracks. The previous year, Villar Rojas’s “La inocencia de los animales” served as a decaying amphitheater where lectures and performances were held as part of MoMA PS1’s “Expo 1: New York.” He has now created the ultimate dinner party on the Met roof, “The Theater of Disappearance,” tables and chairs occupied by an amalgamation of characters based on sculptures in the Met collection.
Some of the men, women, children, and animals are haunting in a ghostly white, while others are in an ominous black. Villar Rojas handpicked each item he re-created, milled or using a 3D printer and made in urethane foam coated with matte industrial paint to protect it all from the weather. Villar Rojas has mixed the ancient with the modern, the classical with the contemporary, including elements from Tomb Effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, a boy resting with a horse on a fourteenth-century fragment of a queen’s face, a French knight from the Cloisters, a sixth-century Egyptian otter, fourth-century BCE Persian plates, a mid-twentieth-century Côte d’Ivoire bird, Edvard Munch’s “The Kiss” with the man and woman turned into horses, a boy general wearing business shoes, and a man sitting on a table, two disembodied arms forming binoculars over his eyes as he stares at the head of a New Kingdom hippo in his hands. There are also babies, cats, tiny lions, crabs, musical instruments, a hand holding a cigarette, coins, and abstract shapes. (Villar Rojas even designed the bar and the typography.) It’s as if Villar Rojas collected hundreds of works from the Met collection (he has referred to it as a scavenger hunt), tossed them like a salad, then put the pieces back together however he wanted, letting his imagination go wild.
There’s a decidedly playful feel to “The Theater of Disappearance” in addition to an endearing hope for the future; Villar Rojas has constructed a surreal fantasy world where art from cultures around the globe, including China, Japan, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and America, have gathered for a Bacchanalian feast by way of Judy Chicago, their parts having been rearranged so that they cannot be easily identified by nationality, religion, or even gender, instead a melting pot devoid of time and place, built with the glee of a child playing with his or her toys. Oh, and look out for the hand in the symbol of devil horns; it’s a cast of Villar Rojas’s own, and it just happens to mean “I love you” in sign language.