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Antoni sculpture Open the Gates

Janine Antoni’s “I open the gates” (2019), a mixed-media piece gilded with 24-karat gold leaf

Credit: Janine Antoni; Luhring Augustine and Anthony Meier Fine Arts

With its beautiful old trees and rolling hills, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn can feel as much like a park as like a graveyard; in the catacombs, however, the environment is darker. Built in the 1850s, these underground spaces are generally closed to the public, except for periodic performances and concerts. Now they’re the site of “I am fertile ground,” a project by the artist Janine Antoni.

Over several decades, Ms. Antoni has become known for her body-centered, often performative works; in “Loving Care” (1993), she mopped a gallery floor with her dye-soaked hair. The Green-Wood installation builds on her more recent artistic interests in bones, as well as in the emotional power of religious objects and imagery. It consists of nine photographic works of gestures made with her own and her parents’ bodies — feet, ears, torsos. They’re displayed in gilded frames incorporating casts and impressions of bones. “I open the gates” (2019) shows hands grabbing a pair of breasts, bisected by a shimmering spinal column; in “My waters rest” (2019), weathered hands fold in prayer against a marine-blue background.

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