Is it true belief’s unyielding determination that redeems and protects? This question lies at the heart of Brent Green‘s solo exhibition Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then at Andrew Edlin Gallery. The issue of belief occupies both Green and the man whose work provided the inspiration for the project.
The story goes like this: a man named Leonard Wood once built a house entirely by hand in Kentucky—a chaotic house of multiple rooms with strange dimensions—believing it would save his wife Mary from dying of cancer. Green visited the house before it was torn down and acquired the hand-drawn plans. In examining the house and its meaning, Green was inspired to rebuild it on his own property in Pennsylvania, resurrecting a lost monument to love, devotion, hope, and delusion.
But Gravity is more than just a house. It is a multilayered project that is comprised of the house, its contents, sculptures, projections, and a feature-length stop-motion film. And the project is more than the story of a crazy man who thought he could heal his wife’s cancer with planks and nails: beyond the biography of Wood, it’s also the story of Green himself, as he explores his conviction and responsibility as an artist.
In the back room of the gallery, Green has installed the house in situ: bedroom, bathroom, sitting room with piano, kitchen; each element recreated with a palpable zeal. Avoiding the common pitfalls of outsider art created by an insider, there is nothing ironic, or cynical, or tongue-in-cheek here. The components are charming without being cloying or twee. Instead, one comes away with the feeling that Green is as much a true believer as Wood, though each in his own way. In the first iteration, the work of building the house was a testament to faith; in the second, it is a guileless exploration of belief itself, a willful belief in belief. The result reads as an authentic ode to desperate hope and an all-in commitment to hopeless causes.
A looped projection plays in the front of the gallery, showing Gravity Preview, the trailer for the film. Dark and dreamily restless in the way of all stop-motion, the fitful shots show Leonard and Mary in various scenes as Green’s voiceover narrates. The main characters build, plant flowers, and sleep in scenes of magical reality, stuttering and jerking in the frame while metal flowers grow and bloom, and galvanized nails roll into the gutters.
Toward the end of Gravity Preview, Green’s voiceover explains “…and so I decided to make this film about Leonard, and I rebuilt his house behind my barn in Pennsylvania, full-scale. And, you know, I’m making this film about him and just running everything down to zero to leave something wonderful behind, which is exactly what Leonard did.” In retracing Wood’s steps, Green presents a full-scale documentation of Wood’s doomed project, but what we also see is Green’s struggle to overcome his own skepticism and faithlessness.