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George Stone

American, b. 1946

Double Cross

Tempered glass, books, metal, plastic, wood, and electronics
38 x 168 x 168 in. (96.52 x 426.72 x 426.72 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

George Stone’s Double Cross is a haunting two-room installation that is at once theatrical and conceptually driven. In its first room viewers encounter a cruciform display case constructed out of thin sheets of glass. It contains neat rows of open books, the pages of which utter about, blown by a cluster of tiny electronic cooling fans that move air down each arm of the vitrine. The fans turn on and off at irregular intervals, so the pages alternately come to life and then return again to an inert state. Curiously, the leaves are all blank. It is as if their words have been stolen or bleached out, leaving volumes bereft of meaning.

In the dimly lit second room, which is itself shaped like a cross, roving spotlights illuminate rows of words on the walls. Calling to mind searchlights, they focus on seemingly random phrases (e.g., anesthetic witness, chorus conspiracy). The words missing from the pages in the first room might have reappeared here, displaced and stripped of conventional meaning.

In linking elements that allude to both Christianity and censorship, Stone’s work makes reference to debates current at the time about religious morality and public funding for the arts. In the spring of 1990, Congress—sparked by pressure from conservative religious groups—was considering adding moral guidelines to the funding parameters used by the National Endowment for the Arts. Double Cross obliquely but powerfully evokes this potential betrayal of art’s “free space for thinking,” as the artist himself describes it. By playing with institutional display elements like vitrines and wall texts, Stone may be hinting that museums, not unlike religious fundamentalists, have a penchant for conclusively telling us what things mean, and so also may betray art’s open-ended character.

Ralph Rugoff

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