“With You… Me,” Glenn Fogel’s exhibition at JTT in New York, opened on a dimly lit gallery interior. A suspended seven-channel video installation, the exhibition’s namesake, generates a “pink noise” soundtrack. This frequency spectrum is commonly found within biological systems such as the heart or womb; the term “pink” describes the visual classification of these sounds within pictorial graphing. The color is absent in the exhibition, but it might be associated with the tender content the artist employs.
The bank of monitors depicts the synchronized interiors of Fogel’s childhood home just before it was sold and demolished. The camera pans robotically, recording benign beige rooms like those found in any Midwestern suburban homestead. Fogel saturates these vacant interiors with biographical import through a methodical precision of looking, impregnating the empty cavity of the house with a form of adolescent sentiment that is heightened by an adjacent suite of drawings.
First Love as Drawn by Second Love (2018) is a series of framed graphite drawings on paper. Each work is an immaculate photorealistic reproduction from a snapshot portrait of the artist’s high school boyfriend, Lucas, taken at the eclipse of their relationship during their senior year of high school. Fogel employed another ex-boyfriend, fellow artist Benjamin Kress, to render the photographs on paper. The performative processes of asking a former lover to interact with a history of sentimentality existing outside of their own relationship imbues the images with a sense of shared sincerity and eroticism. Whereas previous works by Fogel have challenged the longevity of the sentimental aura, here the reproduction process operates as a queer exercise in procreation. Rather than alienate past histories through the segregation of romantic experiences, the artist develops a network by forming a polyamorous, familial bond.
As the video loops and goes dark, the gallery lighting follows suit, save for a single spotlight illuminating one drawing: First Love as Drawn by Second Love (the sun inside him) (2018). A single monitor continues to display a slow pan of the artist’s former bedroom. A revolving luminescence comes into view as the glow-in-the-dark stars adhered to the ceiling reveal themselves. The portrait depicts Lucas radiating light as if there were “the sun inside him,” and suggests a point for the stars to orbit around. This relationship infuses the architecture of the home with the artist’s emotional sentiment. The viewer gazes upward at the stars — a view of fleeting permanence.
Fogel recounts a personal love story by physically removing himself from the materiality of the work; in doing so he avoids pigeonholing himself within the cliché, saccharine tropes often applied to gay narratives. By working within an intimate network of interpersonal relations, the artist flirts with reductive archetypes, but ultimately provides a necessary distance for the viewer to become absorbed into the complexities of his subject matter. His story of love, loss, and family is unifying and reproductive rather than sterile.