Lydia Gifford

LAURA BARTLETT GALLERY | HERALD STREET
4 Herald Street
March 26–May 10

Lydia Gifford, Bearing, 2015, wood, hessian, ink, oil stick, acrylic, 16 1/2 x 15 3/4 x 2".

A dense and irregular sense of materiality saturates Lydia Gifford’s paintings. Her canvases are uneven, misshapen, and disfigured. Surfaces are ragged and broken; her paint is improvised and layered; her marks textured and contingent on the uneven folds of her supports. The ground feeds off her paint parasitically and vice versa. One cannot live without the other, and the result is that her surfaces appear ruined. Gifford’s work echoes Robert Ryman’s sustained use of unusual supports—bristol board, Chemex, coffee filter paper, fiberglass—as means to introduce variety into the monochrome. Surveyed from the outside, the monochrome appears as impossibility; viewed from the inside, within the process, the monochrome endures. Similar to Rymans', Gifford’s work is the continuation of the monochrome as a problematic.

How does the monochrome persist? In the case of Ryman, white paint is placed in tension with the dull colors of his support, sparring with them. In Gifford’s series, “Brace (I, II, III),” 2015, wood, cotton, cloth, and nails are combined to rework the canvas like an object. The lower half of the painting bulges, resembling a wave, while nails punctuate, pin, and fold the canvas in a taut and regulating fashion. Gifford mobilizes the monochrome to challenge the depth and flatness of the field. The title of the exhibition, “To. For. With,” emphasizes a relational condition: painting as preposition, painting as relation. These paintings force us to query: What relations does the monochrome engender? The two qualities of Gifford’s process—prepositional and parasitic—dovetail with one another. Her work entangles a series of movements that challenge and undermine the status of the monochrome as enigma.

Andrew Witt

Isa Genzken

HAUSER & WIRTH LONDON | SAVILE ROW
23 Savile Row
March 26–May 16

Isa Genzken, Geldbild IV, 2014, bills, coins, flyer, acrylic on canvas, 39 1/2 x 19 5/8".

Money flattens all distinctions. For Isa Genzken’s “Geldbilder,” 2014, her series of “money pictures,” bank notes and coins are glued and fastened in raw form to her canvas in constellations, absent of meaning. Genzken hints at the autobiographical by including photographs of herself. We should make a parallel reading with Raoul Hausmann’s ABCD, 1923–24, where a bank note, in its diminished and hyper-inflated state, is assembled alongside a screaming portrait. In Genzken’s “Geldbilder,” like Hausmann’s work, the concrete particularities of a life are marshaled alongside the abstractions of the social. Money is precisely this force of abstraction.

On Genzken’s canvas, paint is quick and garish. Globs are shot straight onto the canvas or in some instances streaked and sprayed across the painting. The gestures are erratic. Her paintings are said to literally “hold” money, as if the surface were a wallet or pocket. In these pictures, however, use value is eclipsed by exchange value. Money begets more money. In the same breath, notes and coins operate as a painterly detail: an abstraction among other abstractions—pure visual equivalence. In some sections, notes and coins have been removed. What remains on the surface is a trace of a former presence.

The language of money is a language conceived without limits. Any desire can be purchased, no price too high. Money has a double valence: It is both a material thing and an abstract sign. Painting, at times, is envisioned in the same light. And yet the trouble with Genzken’s pictures is that they threaten to simplify interpretation: We should resist vulgar analogies (paintings = money / money = paintings). Genzken’s “Geldbilder” counters this logic. If these paintings hold anything, it is a desire that lacks specificity.

Andrew Witt