This monographic exhibition of the work of Cathy Wilkes — the largest yet devoted to the artist — includes two small canvases washed over in gray, each bearing its title on its surface in an untidy, handwritten script: Teenage Mother and She’s Pregnant Again (both 2006).
A white saucer, stained with use and crudely painted, is affixed to each of the works. Among the exhibition’s installations, which organize sculpture and domestic objects in affective miscellanies, these twin texts — teenage mother, pregnant again — stage Wilkes’s work in conversation with reproductive labor and how it is valued. For which bodies are pregnancy and parenthood understood as happy and desirable? And for whom are they not?
Wilkes’s installations here are composed of elements of earlier installations, dated from 2004 through 2017. It’s a recirculation that makes linear chronology difficult, and leads the work outside the neat contours of exhibitionary histories. Among the assemblages are mismatched dinnerware, burnt branches, pieces of broken ceramic, mysterious garbage, glass bottles, worn wooden furniture, faded linens and drawings of various executions. Dead leaves, food and other brown matter lie at the bottom of bowls, jars, a coffee pot, a greenish glass aquarium. These are spread alongside autonomous paintings in a foggy palette of grays, yellows, pinks and greens.
What elements of the exhibition risk preciousness are well served by the sparseness of its installation, and the surprise of it: modern and unremarkable objects — a TV, a baby carrier, a cell phone — lend weight and anachronism to Wilkes’s arsenal. Reproductive labor is made to speak in matter — its intimacy with blood and decay, with money (or no money), and with the smoothly banal. Wilkes’s exhibition doesn’t so much inscribe femininity in domesticity or maternity as it does narrate a soft cinema of gender and detritus.
Charles Ray has staged a dramatic exhibition with four works, pregnant with philosophical ideas about representation, the human condition, and the confluence of past and future.
Largely indebted to Hellenistic sculpture, Ray is fascinated by the Great Eleusinian Relief, circa 440–430 BC, on permanent display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. A Roman version of this work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Unlike the refined marble carving of the original, the Roman replica was reproduced mechanically through a technique known as the pointing process. Thanks to the most advanced technology, Ray has recreated the Eleusinian relief in solid aluminum. His is a copy of a copy.
One could easily refer to the work as an example of appropriation art and put forward an argument about the postmodern condition, yet it is important to consider the myth behind the Eleusinian Mysteries: the abduction of Persephone by Hades, god of the underworld. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of earth and fertility, who in one of her violent outbursts caused much suffering to the people. Zeus intervened and Persephone returned to her mother. Her rebirth stands for the rebirth of all life on earth and is often cited as the symbol of eternal life.
The embryonic sculpture Handheld Bird (2006), which, as its title suggests, depicts the birth of a bird, is another musing on life. More enigmatic, School Play (2014) depicts, in solid stainless steel, an adolescent boy dressed in toga and sandals and holding a sword; he could be the twenty-first-century version of Triptolemos, featured in the Eleusinian relief. Ray captures the awkwardness of adolescence and the struggle between acting and authenticity.
“Past crimes create future jails. This exhibition does not live in the present tense. It is created for the future,” writes the artist in the catalogue. His recreation of a work from the 1970s — a phallic stack of bricks tied to a sawhorse — suggests an impending catastrophe. It evokes the burden of today’s world on the individual and denotes the risks, guilty pleasures, and abundant possibilities of making and thinking about art.
The past decade has seen a significant rise in the appetite for artist films on the European film festival circuit. Exemplary of this trend is the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in the Netherlands. Although some artists have been reluctant to screen their work in a cinema space, many now seek to let their audio-visual work live a life beyond the context of a traditional exhibition.
This is reaffirmed by past winners of the Tiger Award for Short Film, one of the cornerstones of the festival: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Yto Barrada, Salla Tykkä, Erik van Lieshout, Duncan Campbell, and Mark Leckey. Leckey, who won the prize in 2016 with Dream English Kid 1964–1999 AD (2015), even went as far as to state that he felt like an intruder who stole the prize.
This year’s program also features many visual artists. One of the standout pieces from the competition, The Worldly Cave (2018) by Zhou Tao, was first presented as an installation at last year’s Venice Biennale. Monumental and otherworldly images of the Incheon Sea, the Balearic island of Menorca, and the Sonoran Desert are combined into a homogenous and disorienting dystopian landscape wherein human existence appears futile. The somber Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 4 (2018) by Korakrit Arunanondchai is built up around a mesmerizing performance by frequent collaborator Boychild and a loving portrait of his grandmother.
Both Diego Marcon’s Monelle (2018) and Katja Mater’s As Much Time as Space (2018) take a specific architectural site as a subject for visual research, albeit with very distinct approaches. Mater alternates images of her drawings with details of the renowned Theo van Doesburg studio house in Meudon shot on 16-mm film. By letting the print run through two projectors — both set up in a different way and with an eight-second interval — she creates a fascinating interplay between the past and the present; her drawings moving from one image to another as if entangled in an uneven dance. In staccato flashes, Macron illuminates eerie figures in the dark rooms of Giuseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio in Como — images that resonate with its burdened political history. By using contrasting technologies — 35mm and CGI animation — Macron represents two opposing attitudes in film: structural cinema and horror. The rigid formal structure of the film is undercut by the disquieting actions of the protagonists: a man jumping off a balcony, the fearful glance of a child looking into the lens.
IFFR also saw two radical approaches to the refugee crisis, both of which were previously displayed at Documenta 14. Artur Żmijewski’s provocative Glimpse (2018) shows the deplorable conditions refugees in Europe are forced to endure, and meanwhile questions the ambiguous position of artists who choose to tackle this subject. Żmijewski is also being honored with a focus program at the film festival, which includes a retrospective of his work to date, and a display of his latest video installation, Realism (2017). In View From Above (2018) by Hiwa K, a camera hovers over a scale model of a bombed-out postwar Kassel. A voice-over recounts an asylum seeker’s carefully constructed story, told in order to prove their origin from unsafe territories.
Photographer Tobias Zielony delivers a captivating work with Maskirovka (2018), the title stemming from a Russian term for “covert warfare.” Two disparate series of photographs, one depicting scenes from the Maidan uprising, the other portraying the Kyiv underground queer and techno scene, find their formal opposition in a flickering stop-motion animation.
With Comfort Stations (2018), Anja Dornieden and Juan David Gonzalez Monroy present a collection of found images and sounds accompanied by an instructional text. As in their previous work, they pair craftsman-like control over 16-mm film with contemporary sensibilities, questioning the authenticity of the image.
The festival also offers a wide array of master classes, artist talks, exhibitions, workshops, and panel discussions contextualizing the program. “After Uniqueness,” a panel discussion preluded by a keynote presentation by Erika Balsom, author of After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (2017), resulted in an interesting debate on film distribution that juxtaposed reproducibility and authenticity, or, mundanely put, BitTorrent versus the edition. In her artist talk, Laure Prouvost inadvertently addresses the subject with a projection of OWT (2007), in which curator Michael Conner professes: How can any film be an artwork, and how can any film not be an artwork? (Which gets mis-subtitled in Prouvost’s idiosyncratic way as “How may feeling a cow can always be in? Why he never felt like that when he kissed Madonna, even at work?”)
Back in 2012, Keith Farquhar had a show at New Jerseyy in Basel, “Abstract Printings,” that focused on his interest in the appropriation of works produced by other artists. However, unlike Elaine Sturtevant or Sherrie Levine, Farquhar does not intend to create perfect copies of the artworks he references.
Based on one of Morris Louis’s “Unfurled” paintings (1960–61), Abstract Printing (Digital America) (2012) is, in fact, a UV print on birch plywood. Likewise, Abstract Printing (In and out of Wool) (2012), based on Christopher Wool’s He Said She Said (2001), was made using the same process, this time on corrugated galvanized steel. Farquhar’s show at Office Baroque includes a new humorous “tribute” to Wool, Woolmark #6 (2015), which resembles a simple spray-painted graffiti on a found piece of sheet metal. “Iconoclasm is important. I’m a great admirer of both the Louis and Wool works, yet their iconic status doesn’t stop me from treating them with irreverence; cannibalizing their graven image to make anew,” says Farquhar. The interesting thing about this approach is that not only does it question the aura (and value) of celebrated artworks, but also the technology used to copy them: “As the printheads pass over the peak of the corrugation, a normal photographic image of the spray-paint gesture is printed; where they pass over the trough of the corrugation, a diffusion takes place,” he says. “Thus, the image alternates between a digital photographic image of spray-paint and actual spray-paint and back again ad infinitum.”
Also on display at Office Baroque is Ken and Cady Noland (2013–18), which uses a low-resolution image of Kenneth Noland’s 1961 painting Epigram. As a result, the printed brushstroke is highly pixelated. The work is an encounter between Kenneth Noland and his daughter Cady, with a recurring motif found in her sculptures of the mid to late 1990s: a five-holed wooden stock employed as a method of public punishment. For the opening, Farquhar held a face-painting workshop, in which kids would place their heads through the holes of the work afterward and pose for photographs.
In “Abstract Printings,” all of the printed works create a coherent whole — referring to similar topics in the same whimsical manner. It is therefore difficult to see how the new works created by Farquhar for the show fit into his production: brand new, colorful sleeping bags hung upside down, displayed with a basket holding a puppy dog and coffee cup (a different brand for each piece). The social message of a global economy producing a global poverty isn’t just unconvincing — and Gavin Turk’s sleeping bags produce a more striking effect — but the reference made by the artist to Kazimir Malevich’s “Peasant” paintings from the late 1920s and early 1930s is rather far-fetched. Here, the artist approaches the periphery of the system he has created.
Art Stage Singapore, which espoused the lofty goal of representing a regional identity with its 2017 slogan “We are Asia,” returned this year with a more consolidated fair: a foray into luxury consumerism vis-à-vis an art-design showcase titled “Art Meets Design: Cultural Trend or Fashionable Lifestyle?” and a special feature on the Thai art scene.
With the latter, Art Stage 2018 served up some challenging works by established Thai artists. Sakarin Krue-On’s Tale Bearer’s Tale: The Last Deer was particularly noteworthy. The work uses the now-extinct Schomburgk’s deer, a species once unique to Thailand, as a foil for considering the socio-historical landscape of Thai society. The work’s video element, presented alongside a beautiful but jarring severed head of a supposed Schomburgk’s deer on a desk, features local cultural workers and members of the Thai working class discussing the mythical deer, occasionally interjecting commentary on economic and social developments in Thailand. Another significant offering was Nova Contemporary’s installation of Tada Hengsapkul’s The Shards Would Shatter at Touch (2017), a piece that was to be presented at Cartel Artspace in Bangkok in 2017 before being censored by Thai military personnel. The Shards Would Shatter at Touch is a performative work in that the set of forty-nine thermochromic printed cloths are meant to be pressed against the viewer’s body to reveal an image and number. The number corresponds to a story within a set of documents attached to the wall, each dedicated to a human rights activist or political exile persecuted by the Thai military. Such presentations confirm the continued relevance of regional platforms as well as the fair’s agency and value in promoting challenging political work.
This year’s Art Stage Singapore 2018 was perhaps more transparent in its value-creation mechanisms. For example, the fair presented an exhibition from the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, based on works acquired between 2011 to 2016 at previous editions of Art Stage Singapore. The art fund invests in artworks from developing markets through acquisitions, but also lends its works to prominent museums, exhibitions, biennales, art fairs, etc. — presumably an intelligent strategy for developing cultural capital and, by extension, the monetary value of its holdings. The exhibition exemplifies the role of the fair in creating value and enabling exchange for its customers.
Similarly, the notion of the collector as a key figure and benefactor of the art fair was on display in “Calder on Paper,” which presented a number of mobiles and works on paper from the private collection of Micky Tiroche. Another highlight of the fair was organized by the Southeast Asia Art Forum, who exhibited a design collection by The Artling, an art advisory and online gallery run by a prominent collector in Singapore, whose collection was featured at the fair in previous editions.
With Art Stage’s expansion to other cities such as Jakarta, the fair’s consolidated focus on its existing network could be limiting in terms of understanding the Southeast Asian art market as a cohesive whole. This is especially the case for a regional market diffused across multiple centers, which inherently forces a commercial enterprise to chase capital, moving from one center to another. Coupled with comparatively higher costs for manpower and space in Singapore relative to other countries in the region, it is no surprise that Art Stage is venturing forth to other national markets. Thus, instead of a regional market being defined by the brick and mortar of a singular marketplace, we may come to define the “regional” through the structured flows of capital and art. At least one thing is clear: Art Stage 2018 encourages us to reconsider how we think about a “regional market.”
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then alterity is a deeper, more devious tribute, especially when self-inflicted. It’s also perilous creative territory, rife with dead ends: nostalgia, repetition, degradation, the sloppy “remix” that fatally poisons the original.
Fortunately, David Maljković thrives at porous, overlapping margins, and his latest exhibition, “Alterity Line,” on view through February 24 at Metro Pictures in New York, revels in the fertile spaces between the self and the other, the found and the made, the end and the means.
Born in Rijeka, Croatia, and based in Zagreb, Maljković is an intrepid tracer of transformation and its consequences. The raw materials of this show are not only a selection of his previous works (drawings harvested from sketchbooks past, previous paintings and collages, visual fragments of a student performance) but also the typically concealed — yet suddenly compelling — tools of their production and display. Reconfigured on scales ranging from grand (multimedia installations) to intimate (a rolled up painting, encased in Plexiglas and leaning against a wall or propped on sawhorses), these works gain layers and levels, subverting expectations without erasing their origins.
First up (or down, rather) is a trio of large floor pieces: acrylic grates that once resembled squashed and miniaturized Sol LeWitticisms — pristine white infinities of interlocking cubes. By the time Maljković found them, they had seen better days, and he put them to work. The bruised grids served as supports for the exhibition’s fifteen new, aluminum-mounted canvases while the artist performed painstaking feats of laser-assisted Etch-a-Sketching, often inscribing figures and forms in the act of projection (stylized movie cameras, orthogonal lines) atop oil paintings that date to 2002 or 2003. Caked with paint residue and set afloat in vitrines, the grates evoke, by turns, colorful maps, charred puzzles, or denuded honeycombs, while the laser-etched canvases flicker among past, present, and future.
Familiar notions of vision and revision are also upended by three video animations, in which line-drawn faces and figures are stretched, shifted, and reshaped — all on an endless loop. Concerns of hierarchy, whether in terms of time or space, form or content, are similarly shrugged off in Frustrated Painter or Something about Painting (2003–18): two large wallpaper works that transmogrify documentary images (a blank canvas, a helmet-wearing figure projecting a beam of light like a virtual paintbrush) through a haze of pigmented wheat paste. “Alterity Line” succeeds not merely by complicating questions of “Which came first?” but by rendering them refreshingly irrelevant.