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Isabelle Cornaro

SOUTH LONDON GALLERY
65 - 67 Peckham Road
January 24–April 5

View of “Paysage avec poussin et témoins oculaires,” 2014.

Isabelle Cornaro’s “Paysage avec poussin et témoins oculaires” poses a question: How to translate a seventeenth-century painting into a contemporary sculpture? Cornaro takes Nicolas Poussin’s Paysage avec Hercule et Cacus, c. 1658, as a starting point, fashioning a landscape of kitsch. In Cornaro’s rendition, large monolithic black blocks serve as plinths to assemble a series of objects: jewelry, rustic sculpture, lush fabric, and funerary urns, all arranged under a somber mood. Structurally, Paysage avec poussin, 2015, inspires a roaming encounter. Formally, we should recall earlier precedents: Brancusi’s cluttered studio at the Centre Pompidou or Richard Serra’s immense Ramble, 2014, displayed recently at the Gagosian Gallery in London. Yet unlike Brancusi and Serra, Cornaro organizes her objects to the principle of classical perspective: her plinths marshal the body and the eye.

If Cornaro’s sculpture reads as a landscape, her terrain is organized by the weight of abstraction: Her objects are flattened in their presentation—not one object, scene, or arrangement overruns or suffocates the others. As Cornaro’s title suggests, the viewer is positioned as an eyewitness, or témoins oculaires. We must ask, however, an eyewitness to what? As if her objects are displayed to communicate to the dead, Cornaro’s Paysage avec poussin emits a funerary pathos. We also read this evocation of death in Cornaro’s precedent, where Poussin has positioned the viewer as an omnipotent spectator to the aftermath of Hercules’s triumphant murder of the monster Cacus. But in Cornaro’s translation, death is generalized: It does not to refer to a specific place or person but rather is evoked to refer to a social relation. Cornaro’s landscape is figured as a minor but total necropolis.

Andrew Witt

Paul Kneale

EVELYN YARD
Evelyn Yard
January 27, 2015–February 27, 2015

View of “Paul Kneale: 4 or 5 self portraits for free-form natural language descriptions of image regions,” 2015.

At the center of Paul Kneale’s latest solo exhibition is Quantum £1 shop I–V (all works 2015). Here, ten clocks are suspended facedown above five tables. The clocks’ hands have been replaced by LED microchips, whose lights bounce off the tabletops’ reflective surfaces. Between the blinking of the LED and its embedded technologies and the reflection from the tabletop, an image (previously shot by the artist) will be transmitted, scanned, and stored for digital printing.

A piece made in this manner hangs in one corner of the gallery. Post-post-post production Skid Row is a large print of a blurry scan; facing it on the opposite wall are similar images, this time projected on the wall via a slide projector, in Post-post-post production. These works, which are richly indistinct, like a glitchy Gerhard Richter, will be passed on to Google, and the company will create automated text descriptions of them.

Kneale’s previous solo show, “SEO & Co.” at tank.tv in London this past October, was a cacophony of inexact digital content. The artist compiled a script generated from YouTube keywords used for search-engine optimization to create five filmed performances that examine the degradation of language and meaning in online environments. This exhibition, however, presents an oppositional and more precise paradigm of the language of artistic production today, one in which the artist mediates information that feeds back into itself, that reproduces and supports itself. It is an ecosystem of automated concept, production, and reading that replicates and subverts the role of the artist in the commercial gallery environment.

Ajay Hothi