Before I saw “Directed Dreaming,” Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s current show, I would have said they could have been in the Whitney Biennial. I’m still a fan, but this exhibition finds them in an iffy transition, headed away from strength and enmeshed in weakness.
Previously the McCoy’s made large tabletop diorama-like sculptures—fantastic looking objects with tiny figures in teeny landscapes doing odd things. These works had presence, ingenuity, and mischievousness. Equipped with lights, computers, and mini-cameras, they projected wonderful films starring the miniature figures onto the walls. You might see a secret agent scenario, a Fellini-like romp, a horror movie chase, or a scene from a Godard film. Whole genres seemed embedded in these squirrelly sculptures. Even better, the connections between the objects and the films multiplied interest in both and made each better and weirder.
That’s gone. The McCoy’s are still making sculptures that turn themselves into films via little cameras, and the films are fine—especially the one that deals with the artists’ fantasy lives. The problem is the sculptures themselves are far less interesting because they’re more compact. You can’t really see what part of the sculpture is generating the film. This means you’re only getting half the magic. Without the engagement of the objects, there isn’t enough to carry both or either. With luck, this is only a temporary glitch.