Not all of Gordon‘s doubles are so straightforward. One of the most captivating images in the exhibition demonstrates how the 19th-century concept of the double has tumbled into multiplicity in the modern media age. Titled Selfportrait as Kurt Cobain, as Andy Warhol, as Myra Hindley, as Marilyn Monroe (1996), it depicts a 5-o’clock-shadowed Gordon staring at the viewer with dull, smoky eyes from beneath a peroxide-blond wig. Another work -- a passage of text describing the interaction between a French doctor and the blinking head of a criminal in the 30 seconds immediately following his decapitation in 1905, printed on the wall in a small room that is lit only at 30-second intervals -- explores the unbreachable duality between the living and the dead.
Perhaps the most curious expression of the double theme -- and the most seemingly anachronistic of all the works in the show -- is a series of large color photographs depicting babies grasping, twisting and gnawing on their own feet. Shot at a very close range from a tumbling assortment of angles, they are fleshy, intimate, delicately lit images that present the infant as a complete, undivided unit, like the mythical image of the snake swallowing its own tail, a symbol of eternity. Titled Croque-Morts (2000) -- which, according to my French-English dictionary, means “undertaker‘s assistant” -- they suggest, with some hope but no sentimentality, the sublimation of self and other, birth and death, monster and saint.
Though it is proudly billed as the first major exhibition of Gordon’s work to appear in the United States, the show ultimately errs on the side of understatement. Many of the pieces discussed in the catalog are inexplicably absent from the show (whether this is the result of curatorial mandate or logistical mishap is unclear), and the handful of random, untitled wall paintings -- which seem to have been thrown up in a last-minute attempt to hold the space together -- are a poor substitute. Meanwhile, a scattering of large mirrors, clearly installed to echo Gordon‘s “double” theme, defeats the purpose of the wall paintings by extending the illusion of space far beyond the limits of the walls. It is fortunate that the work itself -- dry, refined, and flexible in its nature -- is so completely at ease in such spaciousness.