This show’s title, “Märzôschnee űnd Wiebôrweh sand am Môargô niana më” (Snow in March and Women’s Pain Disappears the Day After), while cryptic, is much like the other citations present in much of Rosemarie Trockel’s work. If this artist has underlined, for over three decades, the fact that people are not defined by biology so much as by personal perspectives, her point is driven home here with a panoply of allusions and projections.
On the first floor, neatly hung Photoshop collages are superimposed in two registers, (re)framing bodily forms and blending characters from Trockel’s entourage with patterns and aspects of materiality. Their concrete frames simultaneously merge with and stand out against the gallery’s grčge walls. One floor above, Trockel criticizes Minimalism via striped knitting pieces displayed, as if for an absent audience, on knee-high sofa-like sculptures resting upon rugs. The carpets’ layout forms an angle that is accentuated by another work: a low table-like sculpture supporting rectangular ceramic pieces, partly covered by a black rag.
In the top-floor gallery, earlier ceramic works cut striking figures within a series of white moldings underpinned by a thin metal stand; the work’s title, Avalanche, 2008, seems to evoke snowy Austrian landscapes. Meanwhile, in The Critic, 2015, the wax figure of a young girl wearing huntsman garb, placed beside a dusty easel, remodels specific traditional clothing. Viewers are left to decide whether to see her as Trockel’s alter ego or to take her as their own role model.
Humorous, but not a one-liner; childlike, but not naive; indebted to the everyday, but not at random—Ryan Gander’s output unites the qualities necessary to being light-footed and conceptual in equal measure. “Make Every Show Like It’s Your Last,” a survey exhibition covering approximately the past ten years of Gander’s work, displays how the Brit handles divergent themes with masterful ease and how, in the process, he has developed a formal language that couldn’t be more contemporary.
This becomes clear in his works that make art-historical references: The photograph It’s Got Such Good Heart in It, 2012, presents a twine-wrapped Sol LeWitt–inspired sculpture that he mounted for the big cats in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo. For Ftt, Ft, Ftt, Ftt, Ffttt, Ftt, or . . ., 2010, a gallery is consumed by countless arrows. The title of this work, which operates within the contrast between the black objects and the white space, alludes to the Dutch artist and architect Theo van Doesburg, whose aversion to the right angle and penchant for the diagonal Gander has translated into a three-dimensional form.
Many of the more than two dozen works exhibited draw on the everyday life of the artist. I Is . . . (v) and I Is . . . (vi)_, both 2013, are sculptures made of marble dust that feature chairs, trestles, and other furniture the artist’s daughter had covered with sheets. These cavernous hideouts present not just the poetry of the quotidian but also the playful aspect of Gander’s art. The exhibition in Linz will certainly not be his last.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Andrea Fraser’s current survey demonstrates just how light-footed and witty institutional critique can be, without forfeiting its edge. Fraser’s multifaceted works from the past thirty years are presented in a richly varied installation. In her videos, one sees the artist as a gifted actress in the most diverse roles—all of which cut to her proverbial body. In Little Frank and His Carp, 2001, for instance, we see her rub up against the architecture of the Guggenheim Bilbao, as directed by the bizarre text of an audio guide, astonishing the other visitors. In May I Help You?, 1991, she takes the rhetoric of contemporary art as her theme. We see performers acting as the staff of American Fine Arts, Co., in New York, overseeing an exhibition of Allan McCollum’s “Plaster Surrogates.” They begin to speak as soon as visitors enter the space—sometimes from the standpoint of an insider art connoisseur, other times from the perspective of a person who feels excluded from the goings-on of the art world.
The high point of the show is the rarely exhibited work Collected: The Lady Wallace’s Inventory, 1997, which gathers twenty-five text works on paper wherein the artist takes up the inclusionary and exclusionary mechanisms of a private London art collection by listing all the objects that are not on display, remaining unnoticed in the archive. With this work Fraser pays tribute to previous Conceptualists on the level of content and form alike.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
There are seventeen rare Earth elements in the periodic table. Perhaps best known for their presence in cell phones, among other forms of technology, they provide the departure point for the artists—seventeen of them, appropriately—contributing to this thought-provoking exhibition that’s much more than just a documentary study of the minerals’ economic value or political impact.
With works ranging from Roger Hiorns’s Untitled, 2012, in which a naked young man perches on a helicopter engine, to Suzanne Treister’s commission Rare Earth, 2015, which diagrams a seemingly fantastical history of these elements in a cosmological mandala, the show is both serious and playful. Hiorns’s piece, for example, is as much a snapshot of our reliance on machines or a suggestion of a future where man and technology meld as it is a nod to Rodin’s The Thinker. Meanwhile, Revital Cohen and Tuur van Balen’s b/NdAlTaAU, 2015, literally but wittily exposes the wastefulness of our technological moment via found hard drives, scrapped and mined for their neodymium, aluminum, tantalum, and gold (whose chemical symbols form the piece’s title), displayed simply on a shelf.
“Rare Earth” includes ten new commissions, of which the self-educated Jean Katambayi Mukendi’s is the strangest response of them all. Voyant, 2015, is a giant electric-powered moving low-tech robot-like statue constructed from cardboard, foil, Styrofoam, and non-rare Earth materials. Coming from the Congo, one of the richest mineral sites, Mukendi’s creation is at the other end of the technological spectrum: self-reliant and seemingly useless, which is perhaps a statement more about the nature of art itself.
Among Austrian artists, Hans Schabus is the master builder of the guild. Now, in his current exhibition, “Autopsy with Forklift,” he has placed a large object in the gallery that, from the outside, evokes a DIY aesthetic—one similar to his earlier space-within-a-space works, leaving the modular wood components and functional construction exposed. The representative character of the exterior view shifts, however, in the silver-toned inner space. Every Wednesday at 7:00 PM, the artist opens the doors of Café Hansi, positions himself behind the bar, and serves his guests. He offers Hansa beer, wine, water, and schnapps from drinking vessels he has made. The charm of this temporary bar does not consist only in that a gallery and an artwork are transformed into a hotspot. Rather, it shows that art and bar hangouts both derive from the genius of the place to the same degree. The president of the Vienna Secession, Herwig Kempinger, has already attested to this bar’s cult status and compared it to Adolf Loos’s famous American Bar in the heart of the city. (The reflective walls here nod to that venue.) In addition, Café Hansi is equipped with a small kitchen as well as a functioning bathroom. The drainpipe, which snakes through the gallery and the walls, is connected to the sewage system.
On the exterior walls of this social sculpture, Schabus has applied select pieces from his personal collection—assembled over many years—of placards, posters, and other gadgets containing his first name. One might smile when one reads the permutations of the word Hans, such as in the fairy tales Hansel and Gretel and Hans in Luck, or in the names of companies such as Junghans and Hansaplast, or in the star of Austrian pop Hansi Hinterseer.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
On a communicative collision course, the duo of Krüger&Pardeller—artists Doris Krüger and Walter Pardeller—allow not only different artistic fields of action but also different times and biographies as well as formal and material languages to crash into one another in their solo exhibition. In their installation titled Homo Faber, 2014, they juxtapose their own practice with the work of one of the most important Austrian sculptors of the twentieth century, Fritz Wotruba. The concept of “homo faber,” articulated by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition as a question of that being who actively participates in his environment, thereby changing and shaping it, serves as a connecting thread between these two bodies of work. Central not only to Arendt’s theory but also to Krüger&Pardeller’s is the time and labor of artistic production.
In this extensive installation a stage set displays their works, including a photographic wallpaper piece, within a system of partition walls, pedestals, platforms, and varied sightlines. Added to that are the sculptures of Wotruba, such as the bronze-cast Kleine stehende Figur (Small Standing Figure), 1961, in the interior space of the installation, or the bronze Sitzender (Seated Subject), 1946–47, in the exterior space. The individual elements of Homo Faber are connected on a conceptual level via Arendt and through an ephemeral soundscape that fills and permeates the space, amplifying the voice of Wotruba himself, who speaks about the idea of artistic production as a “moral principle” and as “resistance.” Wotruba’s archives happen to be housed in this venue, and Krüger&Pardeller discovered this sound document in the archive, had it digitized, and have embedded it as a point of departure for their own self-reflexive and critical sculptural praxis.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
In 2008, Belgian artist Jan de Cock conceived Denkmal 11, a floor-to-ceiling installation at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in which photographs he took of its permanent collection—images from the histories of architecture, film, and photography—and his own modernism-inspired sculptures were apposed high and low on the walls and floor of a single gallery. A recursive monument within the edifice of institutional didactics, this work provoked a reevaluation by eliding viewer and object from comfortably seeing a privileged narrative eye to eye.
“Sculpturecommunism,” de Cock’s debut exhibition at this gallery, disadvantages sightlines of the exhibition space through a complex reframing of structure-support relationships. Eight “Motifs” in wood (all works 2015), heavy in paint and allusions from Giacometti to Judd, thrust diagonally, as if provisional braces, on the gallery’s walls with a Serra-inspired threat. The slightest disequilibrium and the white cube might virtually fall flat––attesting to the primacy of objects in upholding or rejecting their constructed context. Also on view are seven freestanding “Gifts,” whose strata of Twomblian scrawls are matched only by the storied art histories they invoke: Tripodal Gift 88, four tiers of trabeated chipboard and wood, makes cloying calls to a Mondrian grid painting. Walnuts, coated in the same cerise sealing wax used by Erasmus, appear as multitudinous cherries atop this layered slice of history, reflecting de Cock’s MoMA mise en abyme. Insulated within the imprimatur of the canon and supported by a foundation of referentiality, intramural critique reveals itself here as a most challenging nut to crack.
Imagine “Peace.” No John and Yoko here—it’s Zak Kitnick’s exhibition title, and he’s cooking up something more fungible. Visitors are greeted by a poster reproduction presenting a buffet of olive-related products under the heading “L’OLIVE / THE OLIVE.” Titled Lifetime Archievement (all works 2015), it suggests the double-sided character of linguistic translations in Kitnick’s enterprise. Proceeding upstairs, steel panels with printed stock photos of olive branches literalize the symbol of peace. How to best distribute this concept in reified form? Press the pictured cash crop into liquid asset: Back downstairs, ceiling-mounted fixtures are ready to dispense olive oil from bottles onto the heads of gallery attendees. Apparently anticipating this eventuality, the other works on the floor incorporate umbrellas. Consider the installation vertically integrated.
Kitnick’s exhibition is a droll burlesque of entrepreneurial mantras in which economic and alimentary figures of consumption collude. In Water for Chocolat, folding tables exhibit a grid of cheap umbrellas printed with the printed logo of “Conch U.S.A. Inc.”—in other words, a shell umbrella corporation here diagramming modernist abstraction. You can practically smell Broodthaers’s moules.
That initial olive poster is likely sourced from Nouvelles Images, a French publisher of “image products.” On their website, the company’s sixty-year history is recounted through a series of “disruptive” epiphanies, such as “1970: Intuition #2: And what if images, in all their forms, became a market?” Kitnick gives such statements their due in kitsch souvenirs for art tourists. As signaled by the picture Stressed Desserts, he adopts the palindrome as a heuristic device for mirroring the logic of reification. The linguistic engine driving the work is hilariously dumb, as if metaphors were being interpreted by algorithmic shoppers. Eventually the laughter dies out, the image market grinds on.
“For the sheer pleasure of it.” Joris Ghekiere replies bluntly when asked why, for some thirty years now, he has kept a steadfast focus on researching the extreme possibilities of the painted surface. The artist’s passionate indulgence in his medium surely comes across to the viewers of this strict selection of works from 2007 until today, curated by Ulrich Loock. The specificity of Ghekiere’s quasisurgical technique consists in fixing either a blank or an already underpainted surface on a horizontal turning table. After setting the canvas into rapid motion around the table’s axis, he sprays over a thick layer of colored paint. He subsequently draws on the composition while scraping parts off from this top stratum, using tools such as rubber and his own fingernails. A finishing touch with the brushes further adds details to volumes and shapes.
The artist can only work from subjects that he deems to be “completely reliable”; that category to him includes perfect hairdos, naturally decaying plants—playing their part in relentless, dependable cycles—or a dead dog. Yet at the same time he appears to investigate their trustworthiness, for his compositions are often discolored or faded. Parts of them may have grown clouded or even blanched. In several works, forms appear to be accreting, like terrifying growths.
To walk through these rooms is to experience a virtuosic musical performance, balancing on the dynamics of rest and unrest. Decisively, the pictures unpack into poetic statements, not only about the current state of world but also about what painting may still mean today and possibly become tomorrow.
What’s in a name? Those who would refute Juliet’s oft-cited argument that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” fail to recognize that these words are spoken by a character who needs no convincing of the true power of proper names.
With this exhibition, Alban Muja investigates both the import and impotency of nomenclature in Kosovo. Under Slobodan Milošević, the act of naming was one of the sole forms of agency allowed Kosovar Albanians. While borders may have been shuttered, there were no restrictions on calling one’s children after Albanian cities. Muja’s series of seven photographs, “My Name Their City,” 2012, catalogues Kosovars with names such as Berat, Gjirokastra, or Butrint, holding images of their respective cities. Meanwhile, the tongue-in-cheek photograph, Tonys, 2010, depicts nine boys who share the neologism Tonibler, in front of a billboard of their namesake, Tony Blair.
As a counterbalance, the video Blue Wall Red Door, 2009, explores an instance in which names have ceased to function altogether. Each new regime renamed the streets of Kosovo after its own, intending an honor, but bestowing it so often as to create more of an inconvenience. Citizens have adapted by way of an alternative toponymy of mini markets, architectural elements, or known haunts of local celebrities who hold more popular significance than the international notables such as Madeleine Albright, Lord Byron, Giuseppe Garibaldi, or Henri Dunant, whose names the streets officially bear post NATO. The film builds from artist’s interviews with taxi dispatchers, firemen, and postal workers to reveal how this “quirk” can have dire consequences in the places where the social fabric no longer holds.
The hands and legs of a seated performer burst through a wall of white paper, while a board balanced on his lap bore various utensils. Invisible to his view, his hands applied black paint to the paper’s surface within a constrained range of motion. The result: fingerprints, blurs, and smudges.
Slovenian artist Milan Grygar performed this work, creating what he calls a “tactile drawing,” for the first time in 1966. In the ensuing half century, Grygar, who trained as a painter, has dedicated himself to the relationship between sound and image. He has replaced paint wherever possible with sonic elements, interrogated the duration of a line, drawn with sticks, and integrated windup toys that leave noisy traces in his “mechanical drawings.” Grygar incorporates the acoustic frequencies that emerge during art making, but he also writes visual scores that musicians can interpret. His art is not far from the work of Morton Feldman and John Cage.
This comprehensive retrospective at the National Gallery in Prague also brings together Gyrgar’s most recent periods of production, with his paintings from the 1980s—large-format black-and-white paintings that visually conjure fields of sonic resonance—his “Antiphones” series, and the abstract object-scores on paper he has produced since 2012. Also on view is an assortment of technical equipment which contributes to the experience, drawing the eyes and ears of visitors. With luck, the exhibition will contribute to the recognition of an artist whose vanguard experiments and aesthetic merits deserve not only to be shown in contemporary-art institutions worldwide but also to be appreciated in the context of the new music scene.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Ruth Campau’s current exhibition begins and ends with two large-scale installations. In the first room, an array of shiny, sharp, and angular painted acrylic panels litter the floor. Campau has been painting colorful lines across these panels for the past decade, and here they are arranged in a pond of shards called Between the Past and the Coming (Eismeer) (all works cited, 2015), with an elevated gangway that allows you to walk around this geometric fuckfest for a multiplicity of views. The second major piece, Between the Past and the Coming, is very different in appearance. A monochromatic silver series of Mylar sheets installed from the ceiling, it unfurls and unevenly carpets the ground in front of a hanging portion. Its plumbing is also exposed. Wander around back and you’re met with a bright network of narrow, mirrored support columns, some with neon colors applied to their surfaces.
In between these two new works are four smaller paintings on a wall, as well as a floor piece. One painting, Closing Down, is made of Mylar with other fabrics drooping down behind a pane of glass. Much abstract painting today is criticized for being merely decorative, but there is too much care taken in the arrangement of the fabrics in Closing Down for the work to have been made by a zombie. In spite of the artificiality of her chosen media—prefabricated and synthetic materials—and their hardness, there is also an underlying delicacy to this painting, owing to the thinness of the material and to her work in general, which doesn’t make us puke from preciousness, but rather it exudes a happily and defiantly plastic air, somehow elevating us.
Joachim Koester’s exhibition is a meditative yet visceral exploration of that ambiguous distance between the banal and mysterious, through photographs, videos, and installations. This show is named after a concept from the work of Wilhelm Reich and refers to the history and potential embedded in every bodily expression. This is visualized most tangibly in the short video The Place of Dead Roads, 2013, inspired by a William S. Burroughs western novel. In the video, four modern cowboys partake in spasmodic shoot-outs with invisible enemies. The action takes place within a dusty, boarded-up interior, which is powerfully re-created in the gallery as an eerily lit, secret space that can only be reached by entering a two-story wooden shack seamlessly attached to a gallery wall. Koester’s probing of the possibilities of the overlooked, whether it be an ordinary physical gesture or an abandoned site, also creates a symbiotic dialogue with fellow Danish artist E. B. Itso’s work, which focuses on peripheral spaces and the borderlines of polite society.
Itso’s parallel show considers criminal subculture and its attendant elements of surveillance and secrecy. Carl August Lorentzen’s Escape, 2014, for instance, is a grainy 1950s Danish police video that meticulously reconstructs a prisoner’s escape plan, playing on a small television in a tiny, cell-like space. Cardboard boxes are unassumingly scattered in the next gallery, of the exact size that inmates once used to try to ship themselves out of jail, but the link to a criminal underworld is initially masked by their formal ubiquity, just as one has to take the time to notice that the shack that sits behind the boxes—Itso’s Untitled (Hut), 2015—is an entrance to Koester’s mysterious otherworld.
“Your Success Is Your Amnesia” beams from an illuminated neon sign titled Tzatziki, 2013, outside the entrance of the venue for this exhibition, the largest ever of Danish artist FOS’s work. Memory and collective amnesia both play an important role in this show, which examines several dimensions of the artist’s repertoire, including social activities, poetry, and sculpture, accompanied by new site-specific works. FOS uses language as a philosophical, but also deeply political, element in his work, like with the large neon sign outside or in little poems and a mini light broadcasting the message “Forget Memory.”
One of the major works in the show, Preppers, 2015, is a round tunnel built in the first and largest gallery of the exhibition that ends in a brick wall with a door. As the title suggests, this work is a shelter for those preparing for disaster. In another room the work Language Moves into Shapes, 2015, is made of massive concrete pillars that are broken down and spread around the floor. This piece would seem to point to a more recent catastrophe. But as the exhibition also includes a quiet, carpeted room with dark blue walls where many of the artist’s sarcastic yet beautiful sculptures are on display, such as a sculpture of a giant fist made the year of the global economic crisis, Financial Erotic Act, 2008, the intimacy and feeling of security in a museum is sustained. This oscillation between passages of solemn reflection and the invasion of ruin or crisis creates a poetic and political ground for contemplation.
This expansive multimedia exhibition makes clear the extensive purview and inventiveness of Danish artists’ responses to the social, sexual, and political upheavals of 1965 to 1975. The show emphasizes the different ways in which artists sourced popular culture, explored the body and performance as media, adopted collective authorship, and participated in events—all as means for creating socially conscious work. Of the several experimental films that form the core of the exhibition, The Female Christ II: The Expulsion from the Temple, 1969, best integrates these concerns. It presents Bjřrn Nřrgaard’s iconic recording of a naked Lene Adler Petersen nonchalantly carrying a cross through the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, to the utter bewilderment of suited white brokers, in a pointed feminist infiltration of Danish commerce.
Five smaller rooms to the side of one of the galleries especially accentuate the provisional and polemical aspects of collective events. One room re-creates “The Camp,” a 1970 installation in which artists lived and worked with their children as part of “Damebilleder” (Images of Women), one of the first feminist exhibitions in the world. (It occurred in Rĺdskćlderen, a small space at Charlottenborg by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and at Trefoldigheden, a building near Den Frie Udstillingsbygning.) In another room, Nřrgaard’s 1969 film Slump depicts an experimental settlement that undertook random creative acts. A third room presents the interdisciplinary trials of Eks-skolen, an alternative art school co-founded by Per Kirkeby and art historian Troels Andersen in 1961. The fourth room offers documentation from “Women’s Exhibition XX,” a 1975 show that included readings, discussions, and works by international artists as well as nonartists. The final room offers the sensory spaces of architect Carsten Hoff and artist Susanne Ussing. As with the exhibition as a whole, these galleries encourage visitors to contemplate the innovative nature of the original events and address afresh the questions those moments posed.
In this exhibition, Finnish artist Jani Leinonen’s recipe is as simple as it is effective. Two types of work are displayed: large text-based reliefs and smaller collages of colorful cereal packages. The former are based on the typographies of well-known logos, but their distinctive design identities are manipulated into spelling out common sayings or quotes from popular culture. In the latter, Leinonen replaces familiar international brand names with single words, which when several boxes are juxtaposed form sentences such as “The things you own end up owning you,” in The Things You Own, 2014. The logos and packages are altered so seamlessly that the words and the product are conflated in the viewer’s mind, presenting various levels of meaning simultaneously.
Leinonen’s works represent pure Pop art in its contemporary form. They are smart, sexy, and vibrant, just as Pop was in the 1960s, but like many recent iterations of the genre they are political too. They criticize not only the values of Western consumer culture but also those of the art market. And, as rather handsome artworks themselves, they are inescapably a part of the system they question. Some of the artist’s new works, such as It’s Not Over, 2015, contain an additional layer of apparent irony, with grubby surfaces making them look like they have been forgotten outdoors for a few winters. Perhaps Leinonen is here admitting to art’s unsuitability to the task of bringing about any real political change.
The press release for Mike Pratt’s solo exhibition casually compares his new paintings to sandwiches, quoting the artist as saying that he wanted them to be ugly but only succeed a little at that. Upon seeing these works, the sandwich metaphor indeed makes sense, as here are five substantial objects that are so tactile they almost seem edible—layered as any good sandwich should be. These works hold the middle ground between painting and sculpture, as they’re more or less rectangular and hang on walls while also stepping into space with a large boulder of epoxy putty jutting out, as in Night and Day, 2015. The blankets and fabrics hanging behind these pieces give the feeling that the works physically hover between floor and wall and, formally, between sculpture and painting. The basic material of all these works is brittle wax, with Styrofoam plates serving as structural support. Pratt then works upon the surfaces with resin, oil paint, epoxy, party glitter, or even an artificial bird, as in I like to know just who my friends are, 2015.
These self-consciously naive works are unhurried and easygoing, with an aesthetic that’s slightly uncomfortable in the apparently slapdash approach to artmaking. But the works also have a darker undertone that manifests itself in such pieces as Swimming with Dolphins, 2014, which has a Frankenstein feel due to its skin-like surface and rough stitches visible underneath a coating of wax, or in Sleeping Moon/Empty Bowl, 2014, which resembles at once a delicious chocolate-paste sandwich and a huge, scatological feast.
Rory Pilgrim would seem to want to return to the world a sense of community and belonging. Rituals, lyrics, songs, and banners are often part of his work, implying that words speak louder than actions. In this installation, Pilgrim’s broad tale in defense of purity includes a photograph he took as a boy, Untitled, 2002, of a young girl standing in front of a Portland rock wall on the southern coast of England. The long hair covering her face gives her an enigmatic appearance resembling a Medardo Rosso portrait. Further along in the gallery are three photos dating from 1949, of Le Corbusier’s UN General Assembly building in New York, which is also built with Portland stone, thus pivoting from the innocence of youth to the broader ideals upon which the UN is founded.
A video displayed in a separate room, titled Sacred Repository N.1: Violently Speaking, 2014, shows a girl walking on the pristine Utah salt flats, three Quaker women in an unadorned room with a sign outside their house that says “torture is wrong,” and a transvestite performing next to a sign that reads “Queers for economic justice.” Girls are recurrent figures throughout this exhibition, and a group of them also perform as a choir in the same video, ritually chanting phrases such as “compassion, kinship, loveship, and shepardship.” They would seem to hold the key to the world envisioned by the UN. While the artist’s message seems somewhat moralistic, its weighty burden is lightened by the repetition of these lyrics in a playful series of colorful paintings on paper that Pilgrim had made by a traditional English sign painter—finally convincing the audience to sing along.
Although Jerry Zeniuk’s variously colored dots, alternately outlined with woolly edges or sharply defined, seem to take center stage in this exhibition, the space in which they hover is equally important. The canvas in between the dots strangely defines the playful character of these paintings as much as the brightly hued oil orbs do.
His series of seven small canvases from 2014, called “Listen to Me Look at Me,” inspired by seven musical pieces composed, performed, and recorded especially for Zeniuk by the cellist Ernst Reijseger, form the focal point of this show. The artist initially tried but then failed to paint these works in pace with the music, and eventually let the music invoke within him a train of thought that would define each painting. The end results are decidedly not expressionist responses to the music, but are rather an analytical arrangement of colors complementing or contrasting with each other. This approach dates back to his monochrome work from the 1970s, in which he applied layers of paint in different colors right on top of each other. For the past few decades, though, Zeniuk has started to separate these colors and render them as isolated entities on the canvas. The artist has retained his methodical, careful planning, which is almost mathematic in regards to his exacting color choices, but through feathery brushstrokes and a spatial tension he manages to create paintings of a deeply sensitive nature.
In this survey of British painter Simon Ling’s output from the past half decade, Untitled, 2011, is part of a series that depicts a concrete foundation overgrown with patches of moss and grass, somewhere in the English countryside. The painting is a minute close-up of its subject, and such a scale suggests Ling’s interaction with it, both intellectually and physically. Fittingly, it was also featured in this venue’s previous exhibition “The Noing Uv It,” which speculated about the dynamics between objects, their portrayal, and the world.
The artist often examines urban landscapes, particularly those where he works in East London, and in this exhibition, various pieces depict the area’s surroundings—for example, fragments of facades, especially shop fronts, are often pictured. A striking aspect of these images is his rendition of retail-store signs in monochrome. This introduction of abstract elements into the predominantly representational compositions for which Ling is known complicates his practice. Such stylistic devices echo other key series here, including his still lifes, of which Untitled, 2012, featuring arrangements of discarded articles in a molded-plastic box, is a prominent example.
Elsewhere, Untitled, 2014, shows a building and two cars parked in the road with the rear part of one of the vehicles missing. Ling employs a combination of studio-based and en plein air techniques in his approach here, and the painting portrays a time lapse corresponding to the transient existence of the automobile in that particular location. This engagement with perception, rooted in a tension between looking and seeing, highlights a relationship between things and the mind that traverses both his and the preceding exhibition’s themes.
Tit and phallus are much the same. For instance, consider how both offer the purifying comforts of a white liquid substance rich in life-giving protein, nurturing our anguished doubts and returning us to an ideal, infantilized state. Those life-giving parts become the landscape of a series of watercolors on paper by Louise Bourgeois on view in this exhibition, all produced late in her life, circa 2003 and 2004. These breast-cocks are hills, and their only texture is dots, unhurriedly applied.
Add to that the pregnant belly, as there are also two sculptures—one untitled, the other Pregnant Woman, 2003—included here. The latter is made of flesh-pink fabric and placed upon a stainless-steel platform. Armless, the woman becomes an alarming phallus, her sagging butt cheeks resonating with her breasts in front. The untitled work, 2004, is another pregnant body, but rendered in a much rougher fabric—it looks like candle wax or oatmeal until you get close and notice the anarchic stitching. The wild, gestural seams turn her into a punishment talisman, as if she were being penalized for being pregnant, or for being a woman. Bourgeois understood the place in which female artists have traditionally been confined: “A woman has no place as an artist until she proves over and over that she won’t be eliminated,” she once stated. Her art is its own kind of war, then, a battle against the forces that attempt to consolidate the self—feminine or other—in all its unruliness.
Helena Almeida’s exhibition is called “Drawing,” but the main body of work on display is a series of eleven black-and-white photographs, each showing a single female figure—the artist—in a physical dialogue with one or several sheets of white paper. The face of the artist is never visible, and attention is instead directed toward her black-clothed figure and her dynamic, performative gestures with the drawing paper, as seen in Desenho | Drawing, 2012. An additional eighteen small, preparatory sketches made prior to the photographs, spanning from 2010 to 2014, are also shown.
Over the years, the artist has demonstrated an interest in drawing and painting, but she addresses this indirectly through photography. For instance, a blue blob of paint or a hair-thin line act as characters in earlier series. In this present exhibition, though, the focus on blank paper speaks to the moment an artist starts a new work, a move often accompanied by fear and excitement. The grainy prints and their hard contrast also deliver a tactile appeal, as for instance in the curve between the artist’s legs that’s shaped like a bottle, or in the visibly aged skin of her hands and arms, as seen in the first three “Drawings” from 2012–14. Playful, delicate moments alternate with angry or agitated expressions, and throughout the photographs Almeida folds paper around her legs, picks it up with one foot, and otherwise explores the forms it can take, creating a sequence of variations performed behind the closed doors of her studio.
Ștefan Sava initiates a study of ephemerality in his latest show by presenting four installations that deconstruct the idea of the archive, a recurrent subject in contemporary art. A multiplicity of perfectly configured gestures is represented here, including White, Gray, Black, 2015, composed of a wood tray, a mound of dust, and a video. In the video, we see the archeological practice of dusting with a brush and this creates anticipation for an unearthing of artifacts from the past, but all that’s revealed is a silver gelatin print of a blank, black image. Another installation, Ruins of a Day, 2015, comprises two large photographs and a video projected on a canvas, showing an open field where four columns of hay bales, reminiscent of ancient ruins, are suddenly destroyed one after the other by the artist pulling out the rope tying each stack together.
Two archives, one constructed and one found and presented as is, are central in this show. For the former, titled Can You Interpret This Picture?, 2015, a room’s walls are covered with aerial photos of war-devastated sites from World War I up through the conflict in eastern Ukraine last year. These images are abstractions—there are no wounded people, there’s no blood—war is here seen through the lens of mechanical gestures in a realm where destruction is a command. The second archive is a found collection of photographer Mathilde Ross’s negatives and fifteen prints of studio portraits taken of women from Hamburg in 1945 and ’46. Some of her photos are here developed and multiplied then distributed on the floors or in corners of the gallery to be taken by visitors. This gesture of shyly offered humanity reverberates throughout the show.
The exhibition “Uncompleted,” featuring the artist group Art & Language, is indescribable in the truest sense of the word: in part because the group’s members—ranging from Terry Atkinson to Michael Baldwin—have produced multifaceted work so heterogeneous as to elude classification to the greatest possible extent. But indescribable is also an apt descriptor because, since the end of the 1960s, the collective’s artistic practice has been based on discursive, theoretical, and thus largely linguistic activities, such that one can only reproduce, in fragments, the concepts that artwork by Art & Language—which locates art’s foundations in the act of writing—expresses and persistently reopens to discussion.
With five hundred works, the pleasantly spacious exhibition offers a broad survey of the entire production of Art & Language, ranging from publications, documents, ephemera, and rare books to sculptures, installations, and paintings. At the show’s center are large-scale groups of works, such as Index 02 (Bxal):Indexical Fragments 6, 1974. An entire space is dedicated to the magazine Art-Language (first published in 1969), which functioned simultaneously as a platform and tool for collaborative fields of action and as a promoter of art concepts and transporter of ideas. In this journal—which is exhibited in poster-size reproductions on the walls of the exhibition and at original scale in display cases—it becomes clear that Art & Language was not concerned with the programmatic justification of its own artistic production but rather with the articulation of a completely theoretical approach and an entirely new and self-contained artistic domain.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
A key characteristic of French-Colombian artist Marcos Ávila Forero’s practice is an ethnographic engagement with political subjects and contexts. In this exhibition, the installation Zuratoque, 2013, is exemplary of that method. Zuratoque is a shantytown in the Santander region of Colombia, mostly occupied by peasants who fled the countryside due to the ongoing warfare between the Colombian government, revolutionary guerrilla movements, and conservative paramilitary groups. Forero collaborated with them to produce this work, wherein the refugees wrote testimonies to their experiences on jute bags, which were then photographed before being unraveled in order to reweave the resulting fibers into traditional sandals. By displaying the photographs documenting their stories and shoes repurposed from tragedy, the artist creates an emotional portrayal of personal encounters with violence that illustrates his examination of mass displacement in conflict areas.
Forero often focuses on the misfortunes of South American populations, and elsewhere, two works that address the relationship between music and collective identity in the African-Colombian community intelligently encapsulate this approach: Palenqueros, 2013, and Atrato, 2014. The latter is a video that records various men and women rhythmically agitating the water of the Atrato River, a crucial site in Colombia’s armed hostilities and upheavals. The former work consists of two sets of five drums made by French artisans, similar to those employed in festivities such as that of Palenque de San Basilio, a Colombian village founded by escaped slaves—the titular palenqueros. With instruments, Forero brilliantly connects ancestry, cultural expression, and memory.
In a career spanning more than ten years, Danish collective A Kassen have distinguished themselves for their consistent scrutiny of artistic mediums. Embracing photography, sculpture, architecture, and incursions into urban space, their work interrogates the commonplace in a practice that is as formally precise as it is conceptually trenchant. In their third exhibition at this gallery, they present yet another twist in their dissection of artistic conventions, wherein they invited thirteen fellow artists to make portraits of themselves, with the stipulation that they should be naked. But rather than making traditional nude portraits, the artists were asked to photograph the clothes they had just stripped off. Some of the resulting works in the 2014–15 series “Naked Photographer” depict a bundle, as in Jordi Colomer’s photograph, and in others, clothes are scattered around a neutral space, as in María Loboda’s, while Ignasi Aballi’s shows a set of clothes neatly placed on a hanger.
Following a typically conceptual strategy, the artists’ work sparks from a set of instructions. The exhibition hinges on photography, but there is also, though disguised, a performative element. The psychological effects usually pursued in portraiture are supplanted instead by absence and a hint at scenography. One of the group’s hallmarks throughout their career has been an interest in self-reflexivity, but the flow of open narratives these works convey is simply uncontainable. Another key theme is undoubtedly authorship, as in a project devoted to self-portraiture, members of the collective do not feature in any of the pictures, and, in the end, neither do their guests, hidden behind the camera.
In “sub rosa,” his second solo exhibition at this gallery, Karlos Gil stimulates a dialectical relationship between craftsmanship and technology. The tapestries and sculptures here evoke the logic of productivity raised by nineteenth-century biologist Wojciech Jastrzebowski and his pioneering thesis on ergonomics, which Gil has methodically incorporated into his output since the beginning of his incipient and promising career.
If ergonomics is the concept here, punch cards are the tool. They lie at once at the heart of a pretechnological era (they were used by Joseph Marie Jacquard for weaving looms in the nineteenth century and eventually inspired the first IBM punch cards and systems for digital computing) and extend to today’s manufacturing roar. For his tapestry series “Stay Gold,” 2015, Gil has turned to an industrial replica of a Jacquard loom to rework etchings of nature by Jastrzebowski, whose ideal of optimized productivity had a somewhat arcadian substance. By blowing up images of leaves to make the work’s weave more noticeable, procedures of yesterday and today are sharply blended.
Six sculptures, which Gil calls “object ideograms,” are also on view. They evoke the thick foam used to for packing electronic appliances, but they are cast with materials ranging from resins to plaster or stone. They are miraculously piled on top of each other, bringing to mind models for complex architecture. In addition, songs from exotica records of the 1950s and ’60s gently echo in the gallery. These seem intended to create a pleasant mood, one in which images, objects, and viewers are set to perform at their best.
Proyecto frágil (Santander) (Fragile Project [Santander]), 2014, is the key work of Madrid-based artist Carlos Garaicoa’s latest survey. The installation consists of several thin curved layers of glass, united by magnets at various heights, representing a port town. The piece intelligently explicates Santander’s shipping economy as symptomatic of capitalism’s association of modernity with industrialization and its organization of globalization and trade.
Architecture is a key theme of Garaicoa’s output, and here he presents various photographs of streets and buildings from his native Cuba, particularly of Havana, on which he overlays new constructions with pinned lines of thread. One of these, Untitled (Chocolatería) (Untitled [Chocolate Factory]), 2014, shows a chocolate factory in ruins rebuilt by the artist with his intervention, as if imagining its golden age. He employs another intricate technique in the series “La palabra transformada” (The Transformed Word), 2009, in which he writes with adhesive tape on photographs of billboards atop houses such existential statements as “Sin rodeo, la cuidad esta segura de su desasosiego” (Clearly, the city is certain of its disquiet).
A more socially engaged approach distinguishes a new group of drawings, “Infames casas ocultas” (Infamous Hidden Homes), 2014. Garaicoa here focuses on the residences of figures such as Osama bin Laden and Spanish businessman Francisco Correa, who was involved in a corruption scandal. But the artist’s critical voice reaches its height with The Crown Jewels, 2009, an emblem of his nuanced, politically-engaged practice. This ensemble of silver miniature replicas of military edifices, such as the former KGB headquarters and the Pentagon, smartly connects power, iconography, ideology, and history.
This survey of Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves’s practice intelligently includes her seminal work Seeds of Change: A Floating Ballast Seed Garden, 1999–. Here, panels with pictures, maps, and texts dedicated to European port cities document her scrutiny of the connection between trade, the scattering of ships’ ballast flora, and landscape. Alves’s interest in ecology is her trademark, but this exhibition addresses her range through a selection of works focused on colonial themes, including the subaltern condition of native peoples across history. Take for example NoWhere, 1991, which combines scenic views of the Amazon rainforest via photographs, partially obscured by black painted doodles, with geometric patterns of wooden battens diagonally positioned on the wall. This installation smartly reflects on utopia, modern architecture, and the clash between American indigenous culture and European ideas.
The exhibition’s peak is El retorno de un lago (The Return of a Lake), 2012, an installation that brilliantly encapsulates Alves’s key concerns. It consists of three elements: models of the Xico Valley region in Mexico; photographic portraits of its various inhabitants who are affiliated with a communitarian museum cofounded by Genaro Amaro Altamirano; and three-dimensional renditions of the Spanish empresario Íńigo Noriega Laso and his home village’s mansion. All together, they narrate the 1908 artificial desiccation of the Chalco Lake as orchestrated by Laso, an endeavor that caused severe environmental damage impacting the local population’s lives. Despite Altamirano’s efforts to call attention to the consequences of Laso’s project, he is still celebrated in Spain for it. This piece poignantly questions the amnesiac state of the European consciousness in regard to the effects of its imperialist enterprise.
In the spirit of collaboration that pervaded late 2000s Vilnius, where Gintaras Didžiapetris spent his formative years, the artist has invited AaBbPp, Elena Narbutaité, Rosalind Nashashibi, and William Eggleston to participate in his first institutional show in Spain. Didžiapetris’s medium is the open file: an ethereal, evolving device that can assume one format or another depending on the artist’s decisions. A small video projection titled Transit, 2012, took the form of a 16-mm film in a previous show and may well manifest itself via another medium in the future. Its low-definition footage shows views of New York and Naples, specifically bridges, roads, and subway stations. An iconographic concern relating to communication and connection systems seemingly links the piece to the quotidian scenes in Nashashibi’s Dahiet Al Bareed, District of the Post Office, 2012, yet this is a subtle thread. In any case, both works may evoke the Lithuanian’s interest in ceaseless transitions among ideas, images, and forms characteristic of his work. The mirrors that appear in Eggleston’s photographs, meanwhile, further the linkages throughout the show, as our sliding glaze invariably slips across the space.
Didžiapetris encourages free interpretation, to say the least. The exhibition avoids offering any sort of statement or suggested itinerary, or even walls that interfere with the original architecture. Instead of artificial light, daylight streams in through the normally concealed windows. Not only will the show register in different ways to different visitors, but it may also represent a multitude of shows to any one viewer in a very short lapse of time.
“The Alien Within” concerns a complex dialogue around how Western society’s structure is influenced by fear as a normative factor. Emphasizing an unstable European political climate, it raises specific questions such as whether creatives are now expected to tackle sociopolitical issues directly or how fear and paranoia exist in growing multicultural sites, such as Malmö, in part due to fluctuating demographics.
The exhibition includes works such as Christoph Schlingensief’s Animatograph—Iceland-Edition. (House of Parliament/House of Obsession) Destroy Thingvellir, 2005, a multimedia installation that blurs the line between art and theater. Its kinetic antics interrogate the apparatus of performance in specific environs, as well as the politics of the bizarre: What gestures are deemed mainstream versus maverick? When does society allow room for an outlier element or movement, and when does it reabsorb such entities into muted invisibility?
This show, while dismantling traditional mediums and straightforward narratives, revisualizes Western civilization’s discontents but avoids the tendency to oversimplify. The Malmö- and Berlin-based theater group Institutet exemplifies this via a series of videos from 2014 shown at the opening titled “Monsters Arrive Because They Are Called For. It Was You Who Called!” and via additional performances in collaboration with the pop band LOVAC that highlight an intent to dismantle paradoxes of power, sexuality, and the nuclear family. For instance, one of the videos is a blur of men receiving fellatio, accompanied by an elusive voice-over, while another, Ladainha, 2006, ambivalently shows a man using a ventilation system to slowly inflate a blow-up doll. Speech and its persuasive applications in politics also prove to be a striking component of this exhibition, which weaves in opportunities for the public to be heard during workshops, lectures, and concerts. One is left wondering who or what will speak next—and from what direction.
Ofer Wolberger’s first exhibition in Scandinavia, titled “Nein,” displays works ripe from the artist’s teenage inexperience. Wolberger refuses to show any signs of an original gesture with this collection of paintings, for one of which he appropriates the titular image of Dopey, 2015. The singular, doe-eyed cartoon dwarf is borrowed both from Walt Disney’s and Adolf Hitler’s supposed sketches of the character—as the press release states—emphasizing the difficulty of verifying an image’s origin, as well as the murky ethics of some creativity. The paintings appear childish and playful, as in the panorama of Landscape, 2015, where grass-green mountains compliment a cartoonish, royal-blue sky, or in Pinocchio I–III, 2015, where the iconic boy-puppet is exhibited in a vibrant triptych. Upon closer examination, these works seem to vacillate between a sense of emasculation and of a severe overcompensation of masculine symbols throughout. For instance, Pinocchio’s nose is a phallus; a black rod lashes across the canvas in Nein, 2013–2015; and in a juvenile sketch of a skewed man titled Childhood Drawing, 2015, an oversized sexual organ projects toward some unseen target.
The artist’s pieces accentuate frivolity, yet one may easily glimpse a darker, less obvious humor that exists below the surface of each displayed gesture. Adulthood is never too far from any given childhood, and these works highlight how fragile the division between comedy and tragedy remains. By drawing attention to the harsh reality of failure and misconception, the delusions that many embrace during their formative years may crumble over time with each blow or negotiation as they approach maturity.