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Fifty-nine reasons to see this show

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What’s in a number? Nothing — and everything — in a new exhibition at SET Gallery in Gowanus.

“Project 59,” a retrospective of Irina Danilova’s collaboration with Hiram Levy running now through April 23, is a quirky, spontaneous-feeling exploration of the number 59, through all manners of medium, be it collage, video or found art.

Why 59? Why not, one of the first pieces you see in the exhibit asks. For those who want a reason, though, it all began in 1995 as a one-year artistic exploration of the number, which explains the origins of the numeral — 59 is simply an inversion of the year ’95. But one year wasn’t enough, and the project expanded to include many mediums and exercises in the time since.

In this variation on a theme, there are touches of the personal, such as the epic piece, “59 Brides,” which consists of 59 photos of Levy in the same frame, posing or not, with brides found all over the globe, from Tel Aviv to Moscow to Sidney. It sweetly ends with a photograph of him with own bride, Danilova herself, on their wedding day. Then there’s the physical, such as a video of Danilova diving 59 feet off the coast of Maine. And there’s pieces as simple as punching 59 holes in a Saltine, drawing 59 lines on a sheet of paper, or making a collage out of ads with the number 59 in them.

That all might sound a tad self-indulgent, but “Project 59” is a refreshing exercise in art for art’s sake. After spending time in Danilova’s head, it comes as no surprise that she lives by the motto, “Art is not life but life is art.”

“Project 59” at SET Gallery [287 Third Ave. between Carroll and President streets in Gowanus, (718) 852-7609], now through April 23. Open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 6 pm. Free. For info, visit www.setgallery.org.

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