Glen Fogel, The Oregonian
Glen Fogel at PICA, Portland, Oregon
Originally published in The Oregonian

In "With Me ... You," 2011, an expansive video installation by Brooklyn-based artist Glen Fogel currently on display at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, five diamond rings are projected on five screens, which run the length of the dim gallery. The enormous synchronized rings, which represent four generations in the artist's family, spin weightlessly as their mounted gems spangle with exaggerated starbursts. 

Stylistically, the videos conjure the showcase formats of the Home Shopping Network or QVC. As the rings rotate, dive and surface, their unerring choreography is designed to hypnotize us and prod us to foist our own unfulfilled longings on the symbolic objects. Such a treatment of the rings, fraught with personal meaning, would seem to cheapen the family's valuation of them or, worse, reduce them to mass-produced, mass-marketed trinkets of love. This is precisely Fogel's point: When we project our desires onto another person or thing, it is a solitary and solipsistic process, not an exchange. Or, to put it in the clichéd parlance of breakups, "It's not you; it's me." 

Throughout the exhibition "My Apocalyptic Moment," which continues upstairs in PICA's new permanent space, Fogel explores the ways we attach our desires to others. In four large-scale paintings, he re-creates love letters he received in his youth, faithfully representing the idiosyncratic penmanship, typos and the folds and creases of the originals. Without fail, the letters are full of the torrid intensity of young love -- "Please don't think I'm being overly dramatic," implores the author of "From Jamie (date unknown, cursive)," 2011. Reading through them -- and the stock sentiments reprised again and again-- is a slog. They are febrile, yet feeble, attempts to manifest an inner sensation as something transferable. Though that idea could just as easily be applied to the enterprise of art-making in general, Fogel leverages the fervor with which the letters' authors attempt to translate their emotions, mystified by how little is actually communicated. If the letters are ostensibly about the artist, they function more as portraits of their authors. 

Fogel's critique of outward desires is a slow-reveal in the painted love letters, but it's comically pronounced in "With Me ... You." The mesmerizing videos of the floating rings are intermittently interrupted by dozens of white fluorescent lights installed along the walls on either side of the central screens. Like house lights in a movie theater, they signal a sobering end to the fantasy. 

Fogel punctuates this moment with a piece of familiar audio -- the three-note phrase iTunes plays when a file import or download completes -- which is broadcast from a suspended speaker cone, like a computer's volume icon brought to life. The bright lights and iTunes alert indelicately undo the moody spectacle of the rings twisting in space, revealing how "With Me .. You" enchants viewers in order to break the very spell it casts.

For Fogel, the moment we begin to interpret the rings through the filter of our own lives, considering our own relationships or experiences of love, is also the moment love becomes a kind of window shopping in which our reflections mingle inextricably with the objects of our desires.