Review /

Magali Reus / South London Gallery

With Magali Reus, use-value circulates in a deep recess. In “As Mist, Description,” repressed utility is massaged to the surface; with smooth repose these assemblies offer augmented darts of mythic function. Previously on show at Bergen Kunsthall, the exhibition includes the “Hwael” series (2017); Old Saxon for whale, the three variants resemble a disarticulated carcass, yet the remains suggest a more mechanical constitution.

Analogous to “the skeletal framework of the public bus,” as the press release suggests, the “Hwael” also invoke water, situated around curving white plastered walls engraved with numbers to measure the water level from a ship’s hull. The desiccated steel structures seem to display a termination of singularity, appearing as an instrument once suited for strange economic development as well as a reserve for the imagination.

Framed as vessels for memory, objects can embody a supporting role for the mind. Yet Reus inverses the relation, creating objects and structures that intimate for themselves any manner of psychological and emotive qualities independent of our own feelings for them. As elaborate scaling instruments, the “Hwael” appear to demand preservation, their frameworks trimmed with incisor-like thorns; hung carapaces are adorned with autographs or wood veneer marquetry: a cross between backpacks and domestic boiler tanks. Cryptic ornamentation evolves: glyphs and graphemes proliferate; sketchy embroideries snake down straps that trail to the floor; lemon, aubergine, and white weights restore some innate balance; a plaque features a hand holding an egg to the sky; sulfurous doorknobs host teal signage; a molten trainer resides inside one carapace chamber. Indicating customization and conservation, they hint at the object-as-souvenir, the possessive aesthetics of personalization, and the symbols of repair manuals. Elements suggestive of personal possession imply the conventions of externalizing selfhood that, when addressed to objects, serve as vain attempts to domesticate the beast. Disentangled from anthropocentrism, ornament appears elemental to the object. Their excess is intrinsic.

The “Hwael” works communicate a masculinity that distinguishes itself as pure projective force. In this sense they invoke the structure of seduction itself, belonging to the order of artifice, ritual, and signs; seduction eliminates discipline that aims at meaning and finality. Seduction is the puckered envelope but never its content. The “Hwael,” then, demonstrate speculation.

Reus often produces in series, and this repetition with difference reinforces the possibility of an object’s lineage. The “Sentinel” series (2017) demonstrates the need for seasonal maintenance. Reminiscent of fire hoses, each “Sentinel” features a length of embroidered cotton webbing, each with a small plaque depicting a different matchbox design similar to Norwegian Nitedals. Cross-punched tickets are attached, indicating a monthly performance check.

Reus is adept at demonstrating the impression that objects reserve ontology of their own. Each sculpture is rendered to acute specification, becoming an emblem of bountiful and mutable industry in materials such as aluminum, resin, cotton, felt, and Jesmonite. Ultimately, one might consider this entire space an arena. From the matte chocolate industrial floor, the embroideries of gymnasium floor plans, to the wooden scoreboards and athlete’s autographs, competition is prevalent. Exquisite and exploitative, industrial production is a complex sport. It is an exercise in which audiences and users are made habitually codependent on silent devices and invisible systems; we may only harness a sense of control by servicing them, by crossing each box.

by Alex Bennett

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Report /

Lunch at the Art Fairs / New York

The publication section of The Armory Show boasted the best view of any of the three spring art fairs in New York. Installed in an arm of Pier 92 suspended over the Hudson River, visitors were greeted with floor-to-ceiling windows that provided a rare, uninterrupted panorama of the river and sky further south. The section also hosted a pop-up lunch canteen from wellness bakery chain Chloé, which is where I purchased a slice of matcha-chocolate babka.

Pier 92 was transformed into the ideal place to take my lunch by an inopportune snowfall on opening day, and I slowly pried apart the gnarled layers of the decadent, convoluted pastry while watching the heavy snowfall cascade into the water and disappear. My mouth buzzed like I had touched my tongue to a nine-volt battery: the tannic sensation of matcha laying the groundwork for a succulent jolt of chocolate. The hybrid pastry was nearly electric.

That I forgot I was sitting in the middle of a mundane trade fair was the exact outcome I had hoped for. This spectacle of art and commerce, though mysterious to outsiders and idealists, epitomizes the doldrums of endless cubicles and glazed bricks the color of diner coffee. The food really helps, and this year, my own last-ditch means of engagement found my critical attention directed toward the restaurants and catering at Armory, Independent, and NADA. Rounding out my experience at Armory was Italian fine dining establishment Il Buco. VIP ticket holders had the option to reserve a table in a private lounge, but considering that my budget consisted of what I was willing to pay out of pocket, I kept it to lunch. My take-out salami sandwich was, in fact, satisfying. The cured meat was as unctuous as the focaccia it was served on, and both were balanced out with the sour edge of goat cheese. Sadly, though, there would be no champagne to wash it down.

A kind of masochism underscored my writing enterprise, the particulars of which were only confirmed by Independent’s dismal food offerings. Like attending the fairs in the first place, eating at them was perfunctory. It was only hunger that forced down my entire twelve-ounce portion of minestrone soup. It included an entire bay leaf, the thorny flavor of which bypassed my tongue and stung straight at my throat. Independent may not be to blame. Spring Studios, which hosts the event, likely mandated their in-house catering service, Spring Place. But imagine if every misguided attempt at fanciness came off like an allergic reaction. Poppy’s, the only catering service Independent seemed to have been responsible for, offered a good gluten-free brownie near the exit.

A sensible ploughman’s lunch was available at each venue, belying an awareness of the mundane needs of small gallery entrepreneurship: it provided something to snack on to all who worked those marathon days alone. For my final stop at NADA New York, at Skylight Clarkson, I went with the stalwart vegetarian option, a wrap. Little more than a calorie delivery system, creamy feta lent weft to the watery texture of two handfuls of spinach, and four squirts of olive tapenade provided enough of a condiment to credibly call the whole concoction a sandwich. A raspberry linzer torte offered a practical dessert pairing, though refusing to get any of its powder sugar garnish anywhere near my clothes, I ate it ostentatiously craned over a low-slung standing table. My final lunch only confirmed to me that I could have gotten by at all of the fairs on a single Diet Coke each (three total on the weekend). The only beverage I purchased, in my hand it felt like an old friend. Besides, who needs the calories at an art fair?

by Sam Korman

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Review /

Geometries Agricultural University / Athens

For a city not known for its green spaces, Athens is in fact blessed with unassuming archaic parkland in its center, is surrounded by forest on three sides (it is enclosed by the sea on its fourth), and offers scattered pockets of green throughout the city. One of these oases is the Agricultural University, boasting sixty acres of campus, and which for the next three months plays host to “Geometries,” an ambitious group exhibition coordinated by locus athens and the Onassis Cultural Centre.

Alongside the University’s vineyard, aquaculture laboratory, and compost unit lies the Museum of Agriculture, in which the majority of the exhibition is housed. Guided by the overarching theme of the environment and man’s relationship to it, the selected works draw from the oeuvres of modern and contemporary Greek artists, established artists from abroad, and other emerging creators. Arranged among the existing informative assemblages of floral cuttings and utilitarian artifacts are works such as Thanassis Totsikas’s untitled layout of dozens of curious handmade blades and scythes (2018), and the cryptic Abstract Painting (c. 1970) by Angelos N. Goulandris, co-founder of the Goulandris Natural History Museum, which places enticing black circles within a tangle of colorful connecting lines.

Networks, groupings, and series align the works in this exhibition. Federico Herrero’s thirty-three monotypes titled Body Geometry (2018), with their progressions of overlaid color blocks and organic curves, present a straightforward but effective discourse on our movement through the natural world; a single photograph by Yto Barrada, La Serviette Rose (2009), provides a more mysterious glance into this dialogue, depicting a figure seated in a garden alongside a pink towel, a site from which, perhaps, the photographer has risen to snatch a memory of our fleeting and finite relationship with the green; and Paky Vlassopoulou’s collection of ceramics suspended from steel frames by lengths of cabling seems, in its precarity, to reflect on man’s use and misuse of natural resources.

Other works more directly discuss the Museum’s own surroundings and archive. Natasa Biza’s For all Party Occasions: Object Lessons (2018) displays photographs of a number of cooking utensils sent to Greece “for unknown reasons” (reads the wall text) as part of the Marshall Plan, and for many years stored at the Museum. A neighboring architecture practice, Kassandras, have constructed and installed a sound studio within the main university building, A Knee on the Ground (2018), which will host local contributors to utilize it as they please, encouraging further networked interpretations of one’s surroundings.

Reactivating the venue for many Athenians, most of whom would not have had much reason to visit the University otherwise, is in itself a great success of the exhibition. But significantly the works themselves consistently articulate a message of skepticism and environmental awareness, enhancing and enhanced by their surroundings.

by Andrew Spyrou

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Premiere /

TRO presents Chill Out

The film is a collaboration between Oliver Payne, Jackson Payne, and Glenn Kitson. Chill Out materializes Oliver Payne’s performance of the same name, recently hosted at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which features the seminal ambient recording Chill Out (1990) by British electronic group The KLF. The album itself is a recurring source for Payne, most notably in the form of his clothing brand CHILL OUT RELAXING CLOTHES.

The voiceover, written by Oliver Payne and performed by Casey Brown, echoes themes of early UK acid house, Stockwell (the KLF’s Trancentral home), and other soundscapes evocative of the Chill Out record. The piece was shot on 16mm on location in the desert in the USA.

Directed by – Jackson Payne, Glenn Kitson

DoP – Ed Hubert

Edited by – Ben Crook

Graded by – Tim Smith

Voice Over – written by Oliver Payne, performed by Casey Brown

Music

KLF – Mudragana Eternia from Chill Out, February 1990

Voice Over Transcript

Sometimes when I’m behind the wheel and it’s getting late and I find myself alone with my thoughts and the high of the Black Coffee and Italian House is wearing off and there is none of those other Texas Timeboys around and it’s just me and nothing but miles of open road ahead , well , I get to thinking about those days spent squatting south of the river and the times we had. It seems a lifetime ago now but I’ll hear a few notes and I’m right back there.

Next gas station I need to pull over, get some rest, get some skins and page this number on the flyer and get the directions .
Can’t stop now though, getting close to the Madrugada. The time between night and day that goes on forever. This is my time .
The frequency of my mind tunes in and out like a broken radio and drifts from Brixton to Lake Jackson and all the way down the east coast right down to the M25 . From somewhere I can hear freight trains and acid house , Elvis Presley and the World Service. The sounds are taking me further down the rabbit hole. Everything starts to look like a sign . Every name , every number , every sound and every sample.
And then before I know it, I’m back on the road. Alone again with the dawn coming up.
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Review /

Brandon Ndife Shoot the Lobster / New York

Brandon Ndife’s current solo show at Shoot The Lobster, “Ties That Bind,” looks a little like a tar pit and has the distinct air of a crypt. Across four sculptures, mud, gourds, and anthropomorphic relics unravel in an oily muck that could have been dug up from a hundred feet underground. The world, in all of its mutating protocols and contradicting processes, is not mythical or speculative but present and in disarray, caught in a moment of eerily creeping petrification.

Ndife’s exhibition text situates this evocative array of materials among contemporary conversations about the “entanglement” of myriad life forms, which highlight the interdependencies between people, plants, animals, bacteria, and nonliving entities such as rocks and minerals. As Sylvia Wynter, Che Gossett, and others have argued, most conceptions of entanglement treat the Human as a fixed and universal category instead of one constructed by transatlantic slavery and still actively contested in political, scientific, and legal spheres. The show is striking for the ways it uses assemblage and superimposition to foreground the fact that the categories of “object,” “subject,” and “Human” are defined by (anti-)Blackness.

Brandon C Ndife, The Gleaner, 2018
Brandon C Ndife, The Gleaner, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Shoot The Lobster, New York.

The Gleaner (all works 2018) fuses a hoodie and steel piping with something resembling a resin sea anemone. Cast in hydrocal, the sweatshirt’s folds are half glistening metal bust, half slime ASMR; Ndife hints at the symbiotic dependence of autonomous  life forms by soldering them together. Meanwhile, Globetrotter suggests the multi-century accumulation of a dismembered corpse, bound together by winter oyster mushrooms, reeds, dirt, and scraps of wood. The title recalls both the Harlem Globetrotters and Blackness as global commodity. By staging a more nuanced examination of interspecies cohabitation over vast time scales, Ndife’s work reminds us that abolishing the Human would require destroying anti-Blackness, and that this shared imperative is what truly sets the parameters of entanglement.

Instead of creating from the position of “Human,” which, Frank Wilderson writes, Black people have been denied, Ndife’s works come from a negation of positionality that Wilderson calls “objective vertigo,” namely, “a life constituted by disorientation rather than a life interrupted by disorientation.”1 Native to… evokes this vertigo with its aleatory internal logic and tilted positioning in the gallery, resembling two  tables thrown on their sides. The viewer is compelled to peer over foam mannequin-like heads, a partly submerged bone, and a painted wooden surface, creating a sensation of groundlessness in the face of sedimented flotsam held together mid-fall.

by Charlie Markbreiter and Alexander Iadarola

  1. www.yorku.ca/intent/issue5/articles/frankbwildersoniii.php
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Review /

Robert Colescott Blum & Poe / Los Angeles

In a politically correct culture, it’s liberating and unnerving to step into Robert Colescott’s exhibition at Blum and Poe, where the late painter revels in representations of stereotypes. As an African American growing up in 1930s Oakland, popular black tropes of the time period are a mainstay in the artist’s paintings, but he doesn’t stop at black stereotypes; risqué depictions of gender issues, sexuality, race, economics, and politics abound. Colescott once described the experience of looking at one of his pieces as “a pleasure” at first, and then it’s “a problem.”

The pleasure comes forth through the artist’s skillful painterly touch, Ken Price-y color palate, and flair for comic figuration. However, the satirical read in many of the works is where problems arise. Most of the works involve only one black character, and as that character’s role interchanges throughout, we see Colescott musing on various power dynamics. In Peeping Tom (1973), a white woman stands in feigned horror in a sheer lingerie top and curlers. A black man looks on from outside through the curtains, palms pressed to the window. His “Jughead” crown and downturned lips, painted as in blackface, oddly give the perpetrator a sense of innocence. A text at the top of the painting reads, “He was drawn to the lighted window like a moth to a flame.” By equating this curious simpleton to a moth, Colescott usurps him of agency, even as he stares on at his pantless muse.

The mood changes slightly in the next gallery, which hosts a selection from the “Bathers’ Pool” series (1984–1986). With an underlayer of deep red paint, Colescott loosens his grip and allows the glowing figures to elongate in brushy layers of acrylic. No doubt pulling from the many art historical paintings of bathers, namely Cézanne, Colescott flips the racial ratio. Where elsewhere his paintings feature one black character, at the bathing pool a single white character is usually standing vulnerably in the background, surrounded by a sea of languid black figures. The dark rocks mimic the bathers’ bodies in form and color, creating an organic merging of body and earth, while the white characters pop out awkwardly and abruptly.

Upstairs, a large selection of drawings allows for deeper insight into Colescott’s process. Many drawings are presented in duplicate, with various characters swapping race or sex in each iteration. The scantly clad French secretary suddenly becomes a fuller-bodied black woman. Our Peeping Tom becomes a strong Latino character actually climbing through the window. Colescott’s magic comes through his sly touch: like a deck of cards, he throws out a bunch of characters in a variety of roles, genders, and power positions, and leaves it to the viewer to wade through the resulting situation. Ultimately, the work calls upon centuries of inequality, and in turn reflects our own personal biases back onto ourselves. Without saying anything, Colescott’s work says everything.

by Lindsay Preston Zappas

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