A view of Eric Eleys In theater at Suyama Space.
  • A view of Eric Eley's In theater at Suyama Space.
One half of Suyama Space is draped in a web of burlap strips, like a camouflaged tent on a military base in theater. The other half of the gallery, in a seamless transition, is host to white beams crossed and set on the floor as elegiac barricades. On one side you are semi-sheltered (it's a shadowy cover, also throwing a network of shadows on the white gallery walls); on the other side, you want to crouch down behind the crosses you're towering over. (There are also two wooden planes in the "sky" of the gallery, at the entrance and behind the main room; I can't decide whether those detract with their literalism.)

Eric Eley's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were in the military, but Eley is an artist who never considered joining up. His new installation at Suyama Space, In theater, in many ways echoes the generational progression of his family's relationship to war, from pilot (great-grandfather/grandfather) to intelligence officer (father) to artist (Eley).

Eley's aesthetic presentation of forms created by what were originally non-aesthetic decisions—the fabric forms and shadows of camouflage, the crosses of barricades set on the ground—seems a way of expressing his own melancholic distance from his family's legacy and the wars going on now.

The title, In theater, is another way of expressing the same thing. Here is theatricality, not weaponry. These structures cast the appearance of protection and defense (especially to those who are far away), but don't actually protect or defend. It's a strong, sad work by Eley, its atomized/exploded form bringing to mind the equally poignant and topical work Migration (by Stephen B. Nguyen) at the gallery last year, and seeming to suggest the simple fact that things fall apart.