BROADCAST / Alternate Meanings in Film: Chapter Three

BROADCAST / Alternate Meanings in Film: Chapter Three

Gagosian Online

June 30 – July 20, 2020

ONLINE EXHIBITION

You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.
—Timothy Leary

Broadcast: Alternate Meanings in Film and Video employs the innate immediacy of time-based art to spark reflection on the here and now. Looking to the late 1960s—a historical moment marked by deep uncertainty, social unrest, and radical transformation—this online exhibition loosely adopts famed psychologist and countercultural icon Timothy Leary’s mantra “turn on, tune in, drop out” as a guide for negotiating our present moment.
The third chapter presents five films and videos by artists who adopt experimental approaches to explore the unique potential of their respective mediums.

William Forsythe - Alignigung II (still), 2017; Single channel video; 16 min. 30 sec.
Choreographic Concept: William Forsythe, Rauf "Rubberlegz" Yasit Choreographic realization: Riley Watts, Rauf ”RubberLegz” Yasit Music: OP.1 (For 9 Strings) by Ryoji Ikeda © Ryoji Ikeda Cinematographer: Steeven Petitteville

In “Turn On,” William Forsythe and Steven Parrino use unconventional means to generate awareness of their immediate environments. In Alignigung II (2017), Forsythe treats the intertwined bodies of his two performers as tools for exploring the limits of the self and other. In Guitar Grind (1995), Parrino “turns on” to the possibility of using the bass guitar and amplifier atypically, whether as a “bow” for a guitar or an apparatus to generate feedback noise, respectively.

Sterling Ruby - Hiker (still)
2003; Single Channel Video; 2 min. 20 sec. - © Sterling Ruby

The two works included in the “Tune In” section represent divergent approaches to complicating mass-media conventions. In his commercial for fashion brand Jun Ropé in 1973, Richard Avedon presents an exploration of the social performance of gender identity that deviates from the typical content found in the television advertisement genre at the time. In Hiker (2003), Sterling Ruby deploys various horror film techniques—such as a lurking camera perspective and evocative sound design—in a short video of a female trekker ascending a mountain, casting a sinister pall over the otherwise innocuous visual content.

Representing the curatorial category of “Drop Out,” Man Ray’s film Emak Bakia (1926) exemplifies the visionary techniques and oneiric imagery that characterize the early twentieth-century avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism, which sought to awaken contemporary society to alternative possible realities no longer beholden to rational thought.

Man Ray - Emak Bakia (still)
1926; 16 millimeter black and white, silent, motion picture; 16 min. - © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP

Each chapter of Broadcast will introduce a new set of films and videos on Tuesdays. The next chapter will debut on July 21.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays

KÖNIG Galerie, London

Wed 1 Jul 2020 to Sat 8 Aug 2020

KÖNIG LONDON presents Ashtrays, an exhibition of recent works by Belgium-based artist Rinus Van De Velde. This is Van De Velde‘s fourth solo exhibition with König Galerie, and his first at König London.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

As an artist working across a variety of media, Rinus Van de Velde has made a career of exposing the limits and potentials of art’s seeming unreality. Van de Velde’s work suggests that the fictitious quality of art relates to its distance from the particulars of everyday life. But if art is something that we can only experience at select – one might even say privileged – moments, viewers still have to account for the living, breathing personalities who shape a work. While centuries of criticism have claimed that art should aspire to disinterested formalism, Rinus Van de Velde foregrounds the strange identity of an artist with his art. The fact that he often uses an alter ego to sign off on his works serves to make the relationship between an artist and his art even more apparent – as well as wryly conspiratorial.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

For Van de Velde, dramatic characterizations provide the key to an ongoing story about the imbricated relationship of art and life. In the current show, ashtrays become the symbolic complement of this narrative awareness. As objects referencing design, they nevertheless take on an expressive aspect similar to sculpture. The unwieldiness of Van de Velde’s ashtrays, which are replete with little creatures at work or play, denizens of a miniature Bosch-like landscape, compels viewers to become complicit in their still-frame lives. To the extent that we might think to actually use these ashtrays, we become little gods, ominously lording it over the majesty of an alienated creation, exhaling plumes of fire.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

Rather than relying on an abstract notion of process, Van de Velde fleshes out the reality of process in the form of dramatis personae. Making ashtrays under the guise of an alter ego, which is both the artist himself and something of a literary guise plucked from his unconscious, he continues to pioneer a distinctive sensibility, known to manifest itself as large-scale charcoal drawings, or environing installations pieced together from rudimentary materials found in his studio. For Van de Velde, art is best dished in the form of a mask, a fictitious host. Simultaneously, his chosen persona takes on the borrowed flesh of the artist it recreates, simulating the individuated life of a person bound to the realities of birth, suffering, and death. Tracing out the contours of a projected self which is larger than life, or, in this instance, smaller than life, Van de Velde showcases the range of decisions made possible when art melds with artifice – whenever a fictive ego substitutes for biography.

Rinus Van de Velde: Ashtrays; Installation view. Damian Griffiths, courtesy of KÖNIG LONDON.

Born in 1983 in Leuven, Belgium, Van de Velde lives and works in Antwerp. His solo shows include The Colony, at KWM Art Centre Beijing (2019); Now I am the night of nights, at Kunstpalais Erlangen (2018); Rinus Van de Velde, at Gemeentemuseum (2016); Donogoo Tonka, at SMAK, Ghent (2016); Kunsthalle Sao Paolo(2015); and CAC Malaga (2013). Upcoming one-person exhibitions will be held at Kunstmuseum Lucerne, FRAC Pays de la Loire, Nantes, and BOZAR – Centre for Fine Arts Brussels, Belgium. Rinus van de Velde was in- cluded at group shows in international institutions such as the Hayward Gallery, UK (2018-2019); Kunstmuseum Luzern (2018); Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen (2018); CAFA Art Museum Beijing, China (2014); and Nanzuka Underground Gallery Tokyo (2011).

Ólafur Elíasson / Beyond Human Time

Ólafur Elíasson / Beyond Human Time

i8 Gallery, Reykjavík

Thu 25 Jun 2020 to Sat 15 Aug 2020

Ólafur Elíasson’s newest exhibition at i8, Beyond human time, brings together recent watercolour artworks by the artist. Watercolours have been a sustained interest of Elíasson’s that he has used since 2009 to investigate colour, movement, and time. The works often conjure subtle illusions of space and light through the repeated application of thin, transparent washes onto a single sheet of paper in a meticulous, highly physical production process. i8 is pleased to present two series of related works and a new, large format painting made with melting glacial ice.

ÓLAFUR ELÍASSON - Beyond human time
2020; watercolour, pencil on paper; 153 x 230,2 x 8 cm - Courtesy of i8 Gallery.

The seven works entitled Solar short-term memory are each built around a central glowing, contemplative circle. Spreading out from this central motif, a series of concentric variegated rings reveal that the surrounding greyish colour field is in fact the accumulation of layer after layer of colour. For viewers who stare at the circle intently for a few seconds, these works also conjure an afterimage effect. A spectral circle in the complementary colour of the work remains in the viewers’ eyes once they look away. Because this image is actually inside the eye of the beholder – in your sensory apparatus, that is – you are in a sense the one who makes the artwork; you are the artist.

ÓLAFUR ELÍASSON - Solar short-term memory (14 seconds)
2020; watercolour, pencil on paper; 71,6 x 53,9 x 6 cm; Courtesy of i8 Gallery.

The smaller paintings, called Circular hand dance voids, feature delicate, hand-drawn ellipses that bear the imperfect traces of the drawing process that went into the creation of the works. The overlapping shapes and muted palettes conjure an illusion of transparency and shallow depth. The ellipse is a recurring motif in Elíasson’s oeuvre, important to the artist for its spatial ambiguity and sense of motion.

ÓLAFUR ELÍASSON - Circular hand dance voids (Bhutan book)
2020; watercolour, pencil on paper; 39,8 x 28,8 x 4 cm; Courtesy of i8 Gallery.

Both series explore the relation between what the artist terms ‘voids’ and ‘solids’, between the (almost) blank paper and the areas where paint has been applied. Since lighter hues are achieved in watercolours by diluting the pigments with water rather than by adding white, the areas of the works that seem the most luminous are those that contain the least amount of paint. For Elíasson, the artworks arise in this subtle dialogue between intense layers of paint and patches of almost bare paper, just as cities consist of both their built environments and the atmospheric spaces between buildings.

ÓLAFUR ELÍASSON / Beyond Human Time
Installation view, courtesy of i8 Gallery.

The eponymous work of the exhibition, Beyond human time, was produced using pieces of ancient glacial ice that were fished from the sea off the coast of Greenland during production of the large-scale installation Ice Watch, 2014. For that work, realised by Elíasson and the geologist Minik Rosing on three occasions from 2014 to 2018, the large chunks of Greenlandic ice were allowed to melt in public spaces around Europe to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and to encourage action. Elíasson used small fragments from these blocks for the work presented here. The ice was placed on a sheet of thick paper atop thin washes of colour. As the ice gradually melted, the resulting water displaced the pigment, producing organic swells and fades of colour. Employing chance and natural processes, these watercolours are experiments that attempt to enlist the spontaneous behaviour of natural phenomena as active co-producers of the artwork. The artwork thus bears within it traces of time – the days it took to produce it and the millennia it took the glacier to form.

Peter Peri / Course

Peter Peri / Course

Almine Rech Gallery, London.

June 18 — July 31, 2020

Almine Rech London presents Course, an exhibition of recent work by London-based artist Peter Peri, on view from June 18 to August 1, 2020. This will be the artist’s fourth exhibition with the gallery.

Peter Peri - Blind Field 1
2019; Marker pen and spray paint on canvas; 55 x 45 cm - Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Candy-striped beams radiate around a quadrilateral shape, bleeding. Hand drawn with a ruler, aerosol paint and flecks of ink, the coloured lines exude demonic symmetry. Staring at Peter Peri’s large painting Super Topology (2019) resembles something like riding a carousel at a haunted, Victorian-style fun fair, whirling into the dark. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the artist’s earlier projects were inspired by horror novels. I sense the phantom of writer H.P. Lovecraft lurking beneath the saccharine grid on view here. In the 1920s Lovecraft – who was a real noxious ghoul – drifted around New England’s white, neo-Gothic buildings and picket-fenced, emerald lawns, penning weird tales inimitable in their vistas of despair and bone-soaking chill. Peri’s paintings, such as The Call (2005), referenced Lovecraft’s ‘Cthulhu mythos’: a cycle of stories about a Leviathan-like creature who rises from the depths of time to torment humanity. Peri’s spiralling compositions remind me of Lovecraftian narrative arcs: the writer’s monstrous ‘circling’ around a cold space. They synthesize a vortex and pull you into the centre.

Peter Peri - Super Topology
2019; Marker pen and spray paint on canvas; 190 x 280 cm - Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

As titles such as Super Topology suggest, the works are also imbued with the cerebral gloss of early twentieth century Modernism. In revolutionary-era Russia, for instance, artists painted geometric shapes against plain grounds in a visual enactment of radical philosophy. They probed deep mathematics and the laws of physics within their practices. And then watched them fall apart. Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist oil painting Black Square (1915) depicted a void of infinite blackness that swirled all logic into oblivion. It invoked a darkling lunarscape lifted from the Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun (1913), which imagined a solar system where the sun is caged inside a concrete cube, dripping crimson fire.

Peter Peri - Blind Field 3
2019; Marker pen and spray paint on canvas; 185 x 75 cm - Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Nearby, in Peri’s drawing Soldiers March (2020), the artist smudges Suprematist sublimity with old-fashioned experiments in opticality. Created using a magnifying glass and pencil on unbleached paper, up close the hairline-like markings shimmer and flow. (The spidery texture is disarmingly real – I wonder if each strand may horripilate in cool air.) From afar, however, the metallic contours transmogrify into a jagged, three-dimensional structure, wielding points as sharp as a silver dagger. Step forward and disembodied faces float within the tan, leather-soft backdrop, gently rousing you out of the abstraction’s spell. The ground’s naturally occurring dots and slashes become an angelic eye, or an aquiline nose, with the wave of a warlock’s wand.

Peter Peri / Course; installation view; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery.

Looking at Peri’s paintings can also resemble falling down a pictorial wishing-well. In Tower of Rising Clouds (2019), for example, viewers are transported back through history’s silvery mist to the ninth century court of imperial China, where the painter Mi Fu is blotching a pane of silk with ink, glittering wetly. Dark, cursive brushstrokes and nude flushes feign the Chinese landscape. Back to the present: Peri’s vertical seams simulate three-dimensional curves. Their compositional arrangement reanimates Fu’s undulating hilltops as if now levitating in front of the canvas. Elsewhere, in Blind Field 3 (2020), bluish grooves cascade down another graphic landscape. Collectively, these works evoke the ancient Chinese painting technique and belief in ‘dragon veins’, along which waterfalls, mountains and luxurious greenery conjured the Earth’s enchantment. It’s as though the exhibition were the result of some transtemporal, art-historical meeting, existing, like a Lovecraftian extra-terrestrial, within the cracks between dimensions.

Peter Peri - Soldiers March
2020; Graphite on unbleached paper; 78 x 210 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery.

‘Course’ also refers to progressions of time. The idea being that the works achieve, what I would describe as a ‘visual time’, from a sensation of their own making. But the noun ‘course’ also delineates a process in architecture: a slow, ‘continuous horizontal layer’ of stone within another wall. Peri’s rainbow streams are embedded within thick black grounds. He tells me this is a visual metaphor paralleling earlier artistic experiments with temporality. In H.G. Wells’ novella The Time Machine (1895), for example, the Earth melts into a state of entropy. As the protagonist time-warps they witness, and are sometimes sequestered within, layers of decaying rock. In the final pages Wells drops you onto what remains of the planet’s sweeping, white sands to watch a dying star. The smouldering sun grows to a perilous size, fading red.

Gabriella Pounds

Federico Herrero at James Cohan Gallery

Federico Herrero at James Cohan Gallery

James Cohan Viewing Room

22 JUNE – 31 JULY 2020

ONLINE EXHIBITION

Federico Herrero sees paintings everywhere, from street curbs and traffic signs to the painted trees and stones which proliferate in his native San José, Costa Rica. It is this examination of how color, shapes and signs define the urban environment that is vital to his practice as a painter.

Federico Herrero - MONSTERA Y JARRA
2020; Oil and acrylic on canvas; 80 x 100 cm. Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery.

Herrero is best known for working on an operatic scale, regularly exhibiting immersive, site-specific wall paintings, monumental canvases, and cast concrete sculptures. In striking contrast, these intimately scaled canvases and monotypes create a rich, distilled vocabulary that explores the sensory and pictorial properties of Herrero’s painting and image making.

“The bold flamboyance and delicate luminosity of Federico Herrero’s paintings are about both the process and the pleasure of seeing. His artistic language is grounded not in theory but rather in the immanence of the medium, in the basic act of painting contained in the application of coloured pigment over surfaces. The internal logic of Herrero’s work is governed by formal decisions that are never autonomous but that filter moments and glimpses of his immediate environment. In this way his paintings speak both of the world and of themselves.”

Federico Herrero - MONTAÑA, 
2020; Oil and acrylic on canvas; 37 x 45 cm - Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery.
Federico Herrero - UNTITLED
2020; Oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas; 37 x 45 cm - Coutesy of James Cohan Gallery

“The photographs I take in the street, personally I relate to them as found paintings. They originate in the notion of the found object. You start to be very interested in certain things. Very specific. I think that creates the type of connection to how you navigate cities.”

“My palette is informed by a wide range of influences. One very important aspect is the urban landscape of cities and how pigment and color exist in a continuous flow. There’s a kind of notion of the canvas, treating it as a space almost like architecture. So I think it’s this same kind of idea I’m applying in the works on paper: the lack of pigment in the paper is the same as the lack of pigment in the canvas.”

Federico Herrero - UNTITLED
2018; Suite of 4 monotypes on paper; Each: 50.0 x 40.0 cm - Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery

“When I was in my formative years, which was the late 90s—there was a lot of discussion about this idea of the blurring of life and art. It was about having a more direct approach to art making—keeping the notion of working in the studio and not denying that space—but at the same time questioning where it ends and how your practice can continue once you’re out in the street or in daily life. This became for me a way to navigate my context.”

Federico Herrero - UNTITLED
2020; Monotype on paper; 50.0 x 40.0 cm - Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery

Federico Herrero (b. 1978, San José, Costa Rica) has presented solo exhibitions and public installations in São Paulo; San Francisco; Dusseldorf, Germany; Kanazawa, Japan; Tokyo; Mexico City; and London. Recent major institutional projects include Tempo aberto, Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, São Paulo (2019); Open Envelope, Witte de With, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2018); and Alphabet, a site-specific installation for the atrium of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2018). This summer, he will be the subject of an important mid-career retrospective at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica in his native San Jose. Herrero received the Young Artist’s Prize at the 49th Venice Biennale (2001) and his work is in the permanent collection of numerous institutions including the Tate Modern, London, UK;  Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Palm Springs Museum of Art, Palm Springs, CA; MUDAM, Luxembourg; MUSAC, Castilla y León, Spain;  Museo de de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo de Santander y Cantabria, Santander, Spain; MUAC Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. Herrero is also the founder of Despacio, a contemporary art space in his native San José, which is an important force in the continued development of Central America’s artistic voice. He lives and works in San José, Costa Rica.

Adam Jeppesen / THE GREAT FILTER

Adam Jeppesen, THE GREAT FILTER at BRANDTS in Odense

KUNSTMUSEUM BRANDTS, Odense, Denmark

until 02 August 2020

Danish artist Adam Jeppesen (b. 1978) has for many years been known internationally for his haunting and poetic photographs. For BRANDTS Jeppesen has created a temporary large scale sculpture, a new artwork specifically conceived for the exhibition room (Malersalen). More than 150 m2 is the foundation of a scenery of semi-collapsed shapes. What looks like a city of sand castles, now in ruins, spreads before your feet. However, something lingers in the decay – a certain beauty still kept intact – a hypnotic vison spurred on by the repetitive form. In The Great Filter’ Jeppesen focused on the relation between the ending and beginning of everything.

The Great Filter, Adam Jeppesen at Brandts, Photo by David Stjernholm

With the sand castle as motive he points out one of the most existential basic conditions of our life – that everything is temporary.

That transitoriness is a premise for the beginning of new life.

^ The Great Filter, Adam Jeppesen at Brandts, Photo by David Stjernholm
Summer In The City 2018, Martin Asbëk Gallery, Photo by David Stjernholm
Summer In The City 2018, Martin Asbëk Gallery, Photo by David Stjernholm

The exhibition is accompanied with the publication of Error Object Structure. A compendium of the artist practice over the last 10 years – moving from photography to sculpture. With texts by Catherine Troiano (V&A), Sarah Allen (Tate Modern), Hinde Haest (FOAM), and Leonard Koren (author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers). The book is published by Plethora Magazine.

Ewa Juszkiewicz: The Grass divides as with a Comb

Ewa Juszkiewicz: The Grass divides as with a Comb

Almine Rech Gallery, London.
June 18 — July 31, 2020

The Grass divides as with a Comb at Almine Rech London is Ewa Juszkiewicz’s first exhibition at the gallery.

Through the deconstruction of traditional, historical portraits, Juszkiewicz enters into discussion with the visual conventions that they represent, and undermines their constant, indisputable character. The artist confronts the schematic representation of women in art history. She critically refers to the position and role of women in society and culture in the past, and to their insufficient presence in the official version of history.

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled (after Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun);
2020; Oil on canvas; 160 x 120 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

As is well known, in previous centuries the absence of women was prevalent in many areas. Denying the role of women in the artistic landscape meant diminishing their existence by depriving them of the status of full artists and citizens, like Emily Dickinson, who had to publish her writing anonymously in 1850. The title of the exhibition is taken from one of her poems.

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled;
2020; Oil on canvas; 90 x 70 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Juszkiewicz’s portraits recall paintings by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Joseph Van Lerius, and Joseph Wright, sending us into a world that is both classical and surrealist. By covering female faces and displaying their transfiguration, Juszkiewicz revitalizes Art History through a unique language. In her paintings, the sitter’s poses are familiar, but the intention is radically new. As the artist says:

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled (after Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun);
2020; Oil on canvas; 130 x 100 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

“My gestures are the tools to break a cliché and overturn a well-known order. I replace what is classical and connected with the canon into what comes from nature and senses. Paradoxically, by covering these portraits I want to uncover individuality, character, emotions. I want to bring out the vitality.”

Ewa Juszkiewicz - Untitled (after Joseph Wright);
2020; Oil on canvas; 160 x 125 cm; Courtesy of Almine Rech Gallery

Like the surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse, Juszkiewicz creates hybrid characters and experiments with the form of the female figure. The faces are replaced by a bouquet of flowers, a textile arrangement, or an extravagant headdress. The details, curves, and draped fabrics are formed as if a sculpture, bringing out ambiguous emotions and balancing on the border of what is human and inhuman. It is a radical and contemporary act, that accomplishes a kind of symbolic demolition of the canon that this genre represents.

– Milena Oldfield

Hito Steyerl: The Tower @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Hito Steyerl: The Tower @ Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London

LONDON ELY HOUSE
16 Jun 2020 – 31 Jul 2020

Steyerl’s immersive installation The Tower (2015) focuses on the making of the video game Skyscraper: Stairway to Chaos by the Ukrainian company Ace3D, based on Saddam Hussein’s unrealised plans to reconstruct the Tower of Babel in Babylon, the ancient capital that he began rebuilding in the 1980s. Part of an origin myth explaining the development of different languages, the Tower of Babel has come to symbolise the hubris of humans aspiring to godliness and the chaos resulting from an inability to communicate. As the game developer describes in voiceover, the Skyscraper is a contemporary analogue to the Tower that connects to other dimensions, much as Steyerl’s film merges the virtual with reality. Precariously situated in a conflict zone, which he describes as a ‘1 km ride by tank’ from the Russian border, the developer explains how he has become part of a global network of technology firms, remotely contracted by European companies who outsource labour to cheaper economies, drawing attention to the physical labour underpinning digital culture.

Hito Steyerl: The Tower, installation view. Courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

As Zachary Small observes in his review of her Park Avenue Armory show, ‘An oracle of our end times, Steyerl is a crucial voice in a chorus of critics seeking to untangle the problems of contemporary culture. Meandering through the artist’s milieu of dystopias … one gets the sense that she is weaving together a 21st-century global tapestry.’ The installation for The Tower is adapted for each environment, but includes a red felt platform with futuristic red chairs, immersing the viewer in an alternate space that feels removed from reality. 

The gallery has taken careful measures to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff in accordance with governmental guidelines. They now invite visitors to experience the displays first hand. 

Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects

Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects

Mignoni, New York.
Starting on 16 Jun, 2020.

It was at an exhibition in 1964 that Donald Judd came across one of Dan Flavin’s illuminated neon tubes for the first time. Placed ‘at a diagonal on an approximately eleven by eleven (foot) wall,’ Judd was enthralled by the simplicity and singularity of this work. For him, this solitary neon tube embodied all of the formal, self-asserting and stand-alone qualities that he was then seeking from a work of art. But more than this, he later remarked, what impressed him most was the way in which this singular form had made ‘an intelligible idea of the whole wall.’

Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects; Courtesy of Mignoni Gallery.

In the years that followed, this almost magical ability of a solitary object to transform, disrupt and also to articulate the space into which it was placed was to become one of the defining features of Judd’s own work. Judd was, in fact, to become the absolute master of this approach, creating sculptures of such formal simplicity, precision, and purity that the actuality of their physical presence became startling. Indeed, such was the perfection of Judd’s works that they often came to look like materializations from another world.

Judd’s creations attained this quality, the critic Robert Hughes would write, because they were objects that were manifestly ‘in this world but told us nothing about the world.’ So perfect, harmonious, and beautiful was the sublime geometry, open-form structure, and immaculate, industrially-manufactured finish of Judd’s sculptures that they came to attain what Robert Smithson described as an ‘uncanny materiality.’ This was a physical sense of presence so incisive and particular that it seemed to affect and even alter the space into which the works were set, infusing it with an activated air of potency and even mystery. This effect was what Judd defined as the innate power of the ‘specific object.’

Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects; Courtesy of Mignoni Gallery.

‘Specific Objects’ was the title of Judd’s now famous 1965 essay in which he first argued that it was the singularity of an object and the physical actuality of its presence in real space that established not only its formal identity but also its power and efficacy as a work of art. Following this rationale, Judd argued that the simpler the form of the object, the stronger and more profound would be the power of its presence upon the space around it.

‘Most works of art… only have one quality’ Judd wrote, and should therefore assume only ‘one form. It isn’t necessary for a work to have a lot of things to look at, to compare, to analyze one by one, to contemplate. The thing as a whole, its quality as a whole, is what is interesting. The main things are alone and are more intense, clear and powerful. They are not diluted by an inherited format, variations of a form, mild contrasts and connecting parts and areas.’

Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects; Courtesy of Mignoni Gallery.

Judd’s Stacks and Progressions are the logical consequence of this reductive philosophy of form to its absolute essence and were to become the twin pillars of his artistic production over the next two decades. Believing that it was the thing in itself that was most important in a work and that nothing should detract from its representation of itself, Judd became one of the first artists to insist on having all his works made by industrial means and to use only cold, impersonal, industrial materials. Only in this way, he believed, could the absolute precision necessary for his work to be seen only for what it was and not for the craftsmanship or means by which it had been made be achieved. Similarly, an absolute singularity of form was required in order to articulate these ideas in the most direct and non-elaborate way.

The linearity of the ‘Progression’ and the open box-form of the ‘Stack’ were the perfect structures for Judd because these are the two forms that intersect all sculptural notions of space in the simplest and most direct of ways. Each form is essentially a material measurement of real space – one vertical (in the Stacks), the other horizontal (in the Progressions). Each also takes the form of a linear, mathematical sequencing of alternating solid form and empty space. In the Progressions, the gaps of space and the blocks of form are derived from simple additive progressions such as 1,2,3,4 etc., or the Fibonacci sequence, 1,1,2.3.5….for example. In the Stacks, especially the transparent, colored Perspex box versions, a self-demonstrable, simultaneously open and enclosed space is introduced. As a result, each of these singular, wall-mounted forms presents, in a different way, a precisely-measured intervention or interruption of the space around them: one that is both formal and conceptual. And, they do so with such clarity and mathematical exactitude that they often startle the viewer into a more acute appreciation of the nature of the spatial environment which they themselves inhabit.

Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects; Courtesy of Mignoni Gallery.

In its presentation of a sequence of singular, wall-mounted Single Stacks and Progressions from various stages of Judd’s career, Uncanny Materiality: Donald Judd’s Specific Objects at Mignoni is focused directly on this underlying sense of singularity running throughout Judd’s oeuvre. Comprised only of six solitary, single-form, wall-mounted sculptures – three Single Stacks, two Progressions, a ‘Swiss’ work from 1984 that showcases the new enameling techniques (discovered that same year) that allowed Judd to indulge his love of color – the exhibition offers a sequence of the artist’s ‘specific objects.’ Each one of which – ‘alone,’ ‘intense,’ ‘clear and powerful’ – can also be said to make ‘an intelligible idea of the whole wall.’

In addition to the aforementioned sculptures, a three-unit plywood wall piece is showcased in the gallery’s private room.

DAVID LEGGETT / WHY YOU REALLY MAD?

DAVID LEGGETT / WHY YOU REALLY MAD?

Steve Turner, Los Angeles

20 june / 18 July 2020

Steve Turner presents Why you really mad?, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles-based David Leggett which features paintings and works on paper from the last few years that utilize a comic style to deal with serious subjects like racial injustice and police brutality alongside lighter ones like art history and pop culture. While he makes his works accessible with colorful depictions of Bart Simpson, Fat Albert, Alfred E. Newman and other somewhat familiar blobby characters coupled with catchy phrases, he does so to get you in. Once there, you will have to face the more difficult issues that are part of every work. The question in the title is Leggett’s, one he poses to anyone who might take offense at his work. 

Why you really mad? Installation view, Steve Turner, 2020
Why you really mad? Installation view, Steve Turner, 2020
Why you really mad? Installation view, Steve Turner, 2020
Why you really mad? Installation view, Steve Turner, 2020
David Leggett. I got it wholesale, 2019. Acrylic, spray paint, color pencil and collage on paper, 48 x 42 inches (121.9 x 106.7 cm)
David Leggett. Who that is?, 2020. Acrylic and felt on canvas, 12 x 9 inches (30.5 x 22.9 cm)
David Leggett. Not with my daughter, 2020. Acrylic, screen print, watercolor, color pencil and rubber stamp on paper, 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)

David Leggett (born 1980) earned a BFA at Savannah College of Art and Design (2003) and an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2007) before attending Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2010). He has had solo exhibitions at Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago (2017 & 2019) and his work has been included in group exhibitions at Zidoun & Bossuyt Gallery, Luxembourg; James Fuentes Gallery, New York; Kunstverein Langenhagen, Germany and the Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, North Carolina. This is his first exhibition at Steve Turner, Los Angeles.


PUBLICATION LISTED IN THE ITALIAN PRESS REGISTER BY THE SASSARI COURT OF LAW WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER 447/2017.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: ALICE ZUCCA

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