Justen Ladda moved to the Lower East Side from West Germany in 1988, when he enrolled as a student at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. By the time of his show at Artists Space, Laden’s practice was already involved in a particular kind of architectural, trompe-l’oeil vocabulary.
At Artists Space, Ladda gathered furnishings from dumpsters in the area – pots and pans, a table, a bed, a television – and arranged them into a tableau formation in the gallery. Over all these objects, a painting of a television screen with a faulty signal stretched from floor to ceiling, with the silhouette of a man bending down to adjust the controls in the center. The illusion was compelling. Writes Ladda, “Many people who came to my installation didn’t realize I had actually painted an image of the TV screen over all the objects in the room. People thought there was a clear piece of plastic hanging in the space that the image was painted on. So they all tried to touch what they thought was a screen. When I saw people doing this I knew the piece worked.”
Previous works by Ladda involved similar types of illusions, but this was one of the first pieces that referenced video technology. The screen depicted in the painting suggests a sort of internal space at the same time that it implies an external source – namely, a projector. The work’s self-reflexivity revolves around the metaphor of the broken signal, of images forming and dissolving. The potency of the illusion depends on the position of the viewer in space; there is one privileged viewing position, and from other angles the effect breaks down.