We think we know time, but we mostly get it backwards. Literally. We view time through the rearview mirror of its passing, a process Western civilization has measured down to the nanosecond. Mexican artist Pedro Lasch's Prospect.4 exhibition at M.S. Rau Antiques, Reflections on Time, takes a deeper look into the culture of time in an installation of ornate antique clocks in a gallery chamber lined with dark mirrors. The clocks are installed facing the mirrors, so we view them from the rear in much the same way we view time. Their intricately crafted fronts appear amid reflections from around the room, so it takes a moment to notice the ghostly images from art history subtly imprinted in mirrors as dark as the recesses of deep space. The result is a conceptual allegory of how physicists now view time and space as an interwoven continuum — a view that actually originated with Mesoamerican astronomers thousands of years ago, as Lasch reminds us with his Bodies and Stars installation of a pre-Columbian stone statue of a woman viewing the interwoven figures of an Aztec calendar subtly glistening within a mirror like polished obsidian.
Although Europeans' understanding of time lagged centuries behind what the ancient Maya and Aztec people knew, European craftsmanship could be impressive, as we see in an 1885 perpetual calendar clock by Thomas Muirhead facing a dark mirror with translucent figures from Jean Francois de Troy's 1733 allegory painting Time Unveiling Truth (pictured). The precision of the clockmaker's art is strikingly evident in a circa 1900 waterwheel automaton clock by Planchon of Paris as it faces a freeze-frame sequence of photographs of music and time theorist David Epstein conducting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Symphony Orchestra. Some of the clocks suggest precocious Victorian surrealism, but taken as a whole, Lasch's installation depicts, as he puts it, "unique representations of time across history ..." in a way that "allows the viewer's image to merge with the mirrors, integrating stories across centuries and worldviews." Through Feb. 24. M.S. Rau Antiques, 630 Royal St., (888) 557-2406; www.rauantiques.com and www.prospectneworleans.org.