The Big Nothing or Le Presque Rien
January 15 – April 19 1992
From January 15 through April 19, 1992, as part of the On View program, the New Museum presented “The Big Nothing ou Le Presque Rien.” Organized by guest curator Kerri Scharlin, this exhibition examined art as an object and museums as a site of display. “The Big Nothing” brought together works by younger artists, as well as more established figures, including Jérome Basserode, Manfred Stemjacob, Kim Lee Kahn, Wendy Jacob, Sam Samore, Gary Simmons, and Fred Wilson. The exhibition was presented concurrently at The Cultural Services of The French Embassy at 972 Fifth Avenue in New York City from January 15 through February 28, 1992.
The works in “The Big Nothing ou Le Presque Rien” mirrored or camouflaged the exhibition space itself, turning the illusion of emptiness into a palpable experience. The exhibition questioned the authority usually implicit in the context of an art institution by deemphasizing the art object and calling attention to the museum as a display space. Works in this exhibition relied on minimal visual devices, such as Karin Sander’s white rectangular ‘painting’ that was created by polishing a section of sheetrock to produce an area of smoothness and shine, amd Wendy Jacob's The Breathing Wall which subtly expanded and contracted.
At The French Embassy, Fred Wilson installed emptied vitrines with signs stating that the objects inside had been returned to their countries of origin, as though to right the wrongs of Colonialism. Other artists in the exhibition included Roddy Bogawa, Devon Dikeou, Claire-Jeanne Jezequel, Alexandre Lenoir, Simon Leung, Eric Maillet, Matthew McCaslin, linda Roush, Jeff Spaulding, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.