Camilla Deterre, a 27-year-old native New Yorker, has made a name for herself as an in-demand model and highly-regarded designer of restaurants and bars like the new Italian-inspired Tribeca haunt Primo’s. This fall, Deterre adds another profession to her already long list with her first public presentation as an artist at the downtown gallery Larrie.
In Absent Without Leave, Deterre investigates the place of childhood and play in the urban environment with a series of seven photographs paired with an imposing sculpture. The photographs document Deterre’s public interventions in which she wraps play structures in white plastic shrink wrap, simultaneously calling attention to them and obscuring them. Ghostly in their appearance, the photographs also act as ghosts themselves—stand-ins for sculptures that inevitably deteriorate or disappear, calling to mind the loss of (and attempts to reclaim) childhood and its unabashed, unselfconscious senses of play and freedom.
The lone sculpture physically present in the show, Seesaw, is a constructed version of the play device of the same name, which, according to the New York Times, has been increasingly removed from New York’s playgrounds amid “safety concerns and changing tastes.”
Of course with the seesaw’s decline, so too goes one of the most active fixtures of the playground. Found objects like a sullied, stuffed shirt bound with bungee cords and a purple styrofoam seat act as bodily analogs, stand-ins for those we might imagine could’ve once used this nearly archaeological object, presented with layers of concrete, the sedimentation of the street, still clinging to it. This mining of the urban landscape is also a digging down into Deterre’s own past and psyche—each of her wrappings is a performance of trying to engage with her childhood past and the playful sense still within her, done in public so that it may call on all of us to do the same.
For Deterre, it is not mere nostalgia latent in the urban landscape. The city and its changes act as a mirror to her own development, both of which are so often linguistically framed as an “evolution,” as growth, as growing up. However, this “maturation” parallels the destruction and denaturing of the city’s playscapes themselves—an urban loss of innocence. Absent Without Leave serves as a reminder of the ways play has been removed from the urban landscape due to creeping commercialism and reactionary safety concerns, and its fundamental importance to making our societies, cities, and selves—no matter our age.
Absent Without Leave
27 Orchard Street, New York, New York
Through October 28