Su-Mei Tse
Proposition de détour

September 7 – November 4, 2006
at Peter Blum Chelsea

Breathing Room Amid Chelsea's Mega-Galleries; Best of the Fall: Everything's Bigger. Even Minimalism.

The Washington Post
October 17, 2006

Breathing Room Amid Chelsea's Mega-Galleries;
Best of the Fall: Everything's Bigger. Even Minimalism.

Blake Gopnik, Washington Post Staff Writer

It seems absurd to imagine contemplative space amid the current Chelsea boom. Several massive galleries have doubled in size this season. Others have taken their already posh, pared-down architecture and rejiggered it; fancier finishes and more impressive detailing achieve an ever more maximal minimalism. Cute little galleries that used to fill odd storefronts in Brooklyn have moved to Chelsea and echo the slick drywall and glaring floodlights of their richer, bigger neighbors.

Veteran dealer Peter Blum, still a diehard in the old SoHo neighborhood, recently opened a second space in Chelsea. It's as big as many, but its current show has tried to achieve a measure of peace.

"Proposition de détour" ("Suggested Detour"), an installation by leading Luxembourg artist Su-Mei Tse, merges two different visions of placidity. Tse got a rugmaker to reproduce an enlarged portion of a Persian carpet in the Paradise Garden style -- animals lounge among luxuriant blooms. Then she had it cut out to duplicate each twist and turn of the famous labyrinth at Chartres, inlaid into the cathedral's floor around the year 1200.

Tse's 30-foot wool rug undoes the idea of Middle Eastern culture as being bound up with ascetic extremism -- her 16th-century Persian pattern is deeply of this world, and as humane and sensual as anything could be. And as for European peaceableness -- let's not forget that Chartres's contemplative floor was sometimes called "The Road to Jerusalem." It was meant to substitute for the real thing when the West's bloody crusader wars made an actual pilgrimage to the Holy Land too dangerous to attempt.

It's also said that the Chartres labyrinth could involve penitence and punishment as much as quiet contemplation. You got extra brownie points, apparently, for dropping to your knees and tracing the full length of the labyrinth's path.

Tse's piece provides a pleasant haven from the Chelsea rush -- but also a nice metaphor for its assaults.

Proposition de détour is at Peter Blum Chelsea, 526 W. 29th St., through Nov. 4.