The Austin Chronicle

“Nick Schnitzer: Inevitable Reckoning” at Dimension Gallery

Structures degraded by time and other materials provide a pointed view of dramatic change at work in the world

Reviewed by Melany Jean, April 20, 2018, Arts

Two Saturdays ago, I went to Dimension Gallery and saw Acid Clock, one of several of Nick Schnitzer's sculptures in his solo show "Inevitable Reckoning": a limestone pyramid with a base of not quite two square feet, submitted to a steady drip of hydrochloric acid, meted out by a glass pipette hovering just above the pyramid. There was then a slight darkening and crumbing of the portion most directly under the pipette, but an otherwise complete limestone ministructure. As of last Saturday, though, the pyramid was showing signs of significant deterioration, cratering at the apex, where the acid drops land and froth before spilling down the front face. The progression of the piece is the most memorable of the show, representative of the effects of acid entering groundwater. It is irresistible. I want to know what the piece will look like next week, and the week after, and the week after.

Schnitzer is skilled at employing this kind of alluring and slowly satisfying degradation. The night of the opening, I watched on Instagram as a piece slowly melted into precarity and, finally, collapsed. Appropriately named, Temporary Structure was a triangular prism composed of smaller interlocking triangular prisms made of alternatingly ice or packed earth. Over the evening, the ice melted and seeped into the dirt. The shrinking and seeping was, of course, untenable, and the piece broke apart and fell on the ground, where clods of dirt laid remnant a few days later.

Secret Sharer seems at first out of place amongst a collection of ecologically-minded sculptures. The interactive piece offers a keyboard to the viewer. It confronts the participant with their reflection in the form of a mirror-monitor behind the keyboard and requests that they type a secret in exchange for the revelation of another's entered secret. We are assured the process is anonymous, no record of who enters what is being made, but doubtless some hesitation and consideration must occur in the seconds before deciding what, if anything, to enter. This consideration is not directly related to the cumulative effects of pollution or environmental degradation, but it is an overt probe into the things we would normally heap up, within our own minds, to disastrous results. Or not. The secret that appeared on the screen for me, interposed over my own face, said, "I eat McDonald's."

The passage of time and its amplifying potential for dramatic change is a recurrent theme and even medium throughout the show. Secrets mutate inside of us, oceans slowly warm and rise, acid seeps into the earth, and water scarcity looms even as populations grow. The show occurs in conjunction with a series of talks on climate and ecological issues. It is clear that Schnitzer hopes his work will prompt the viewer into action. Links to organizations addressing the issues presented in his pieces are provided on respective labels. These efforts ameliorate an initial ticking-time-bomb resignation and reveal a hope that frank acknowledgment of the trajectory of the status quo and slow, steady effort over time to combat these harms can also have an amplifying potential for dramatic change.

“Nick Schnitzer: Inevitable Reckoning”

Dimension Gallery, 979 Springdale #99, 512/479-9941,
Through May 5

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