Seven large white monochrome canvases, all in portrait format. The paint is molded into shapes that jut out from the canvas, intersecting lines that imply letters. It’s as though the painting wants to speak, to form a word, yet it hasn’t fully fathomed how and so it sings instead. In Cut It, 2016, it’s a giant lower-case N taking up the entire body; elsewhere, an S and a T . . . stop? Or still, step, stay? We certainly don’t want to go away. These paintings compel, their loudness blares out at us. We can hear them becoming, even as we move past.
To call them monochromes is wrong, too. Or at least not completely right, because beneath the impasto-thick white, rainbows bleed through. Oftentimes, fingers have clawed their way through the surface to reveal the color underneath, like hands digging their way through the earth.
In Yard, 2016, arching swerves are made by muscular, wide swaths of paint and canvas. A curling sensation; the scratches give a percussive edge to the geometric plane, its ridges and folds, its cartographic ambitions. Painting as sculpture, sure. But painting as writing, also. New language is needed to discuss all this, but Andrew Dadson molds a way toward articulation, as inchoate as it may initially seem.
Joe Bradley continues to push the medium of painting into new semantic territories. Many of the works here consist of pieces of canvas stitched together, affixed to larger, stretched canvases. In Biddeford, 2016, four bits of stained off-white canvas cling to a cleaner, white one. Each hosts a colony of stains: red, pink, and green splotches, the aftereffects of painting, stretched to become painting itself.
Then there’s Eric’s Hair, 2016: an AbEx waterfall for the neon age. The work is vertically split into two sections; the left side is further divided, horizontally, with a purer brighter white on the bottom and some raggedness on top. The right side is a gregarious splatter of tropical blues and sea greens with some electric pink and light sepia slathered on, almost as an afterthought, albeit a very wise one.
In addition to the seven paintings presented here, there are also three sculptures—a departure for Bradley, in terms of both form and content. These aluminum and Plexiglas boxes, one of which is monochromatic, could be the work of Donald Judd, had he not been allergic to color. In the context of the exhibition space as a whole, they emerge as an architectural disruption—endowing the paintings with a louder irreverence that can even extend into gravitas.
John Baldessari, the master of Conceptual Pop art, turned eighty-five last month. He gave himself the best birthday present: this exhibition. The gallery has worked closely with the artist for more than twenty years and is now showing a new group of his works. It can be considered a condensation of Baldessari’s production to date, as well as the summa of his life’s work, all while maintaining a carefree, brazen, and cheerful tone.
Once again, he directs us to the intersection of writing and images, of high and low, to exercise and unfurl our imagination. Text runs underneath picture in eight large-format acrylic paintings on varnished ink-jet prints with white borders at the bottom—all words are reduced to simple nouns: “Chair,” “Olive Oil,” “Radio,” or “Pencil.” As one would expect from this artist, the terms serve no explanatory function but rather open spaces for contemplation together with the figurative ciphers above, rendered strange by their sheer, brightly colored backgrounds.
In his choice of motifs taken from Hollywood cinema, the artist remains true to himself while asking his public to engage with a gay capriciousness. For instance, in the work Goethe (all works 2015), titled after the German prince of poets, one encounters a gunslinger with a pale-orange nose and an otherwise blank face. Erich von Stroheim’s cryptically dazzling Count Karamzin, from the silent-film drama Foolish Wives (1922), is reduced to a Thing with its head painted over in blue. This is Baldessari at his best.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Titled “Posthumous Lives,” this is an exhibition of work by two artists who are very much still alive. Mitchell Anderson contributes High Zest, 2015–16, a stack of trading cards from Operation Enduring Freedom—the name of US military operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The packaging reads: “A portion of proceeds from this product will be contributed to charities related to the war against terrorism.” I’m sure glad we won that war and can finally stop enduring all this freedom; the sales from the cards were no doubt a major contributing factor. Elsewhere, Anderson shows a series of titanium-steel wall pieces, “A Symposium on ‘Alien,’” 2014–16, containing charts, etched via laser, deconstructing the 1979 film Alien.
Then there’s Jon Rafman, who has made two marble reliefs featuring two dragons fucking a car. In Dragons Fucking Car I (Relief), 2016, one dragon slides his dong into the exhaust pipe while licking the back windshield. The other dragon has just jizzed, greedily licking his own sauce off the front hood.
This is the language of dreams––which is to say, made of the stuff of real life, since reality is the main ingredient in our dream juice. This seems literalized in Rafman’s video Dream Journal (Wound Man Closet), 2016. You shut yourself up in this claustrophobically contained space––a box, actually––and watch the artist’s dreams animated before your very eyes. All sorts of things appear: Mel Gibson posing against a graffiti backdrop that reads “Legalize murder”; Britney Spears taking a piss. It could all be real––it is––and yet it’s not. It’s confusing, and reassuring because of that. Life is what happens when you’re too busy dying to really notice it. And anyway, the alien’s been inside us all along.
Hot-pink theatrical lights, a cocaine-colored motorcycle, and sexy-sweet cuddling—this show wants to knock you out with its bold arrangements. Ophelia Finke contributes the bike (Balthazar, all works cited, 2016) and Yves Scherer the cuddling, in the form of a figurative wall sculpture titled Johnny & Kate (indeed, Depp and Moss, respectively). The vibe is of smart, restless young things trashing their parent’s house. Or in this case, Our Lord and Father’s house: The central collaborative work anchoring the presentation is a deranged manger inside a hut, Crib—a nightclubby yet weirdly Arte Povera–ish version of the baby Jesus’s farmhouse bed, tricked out with neon rods. The imprint of a splayed body on the floor dents some pungent hay. It could be an impression from Scherer’s aforementioned work (but enlarged, life-size, as the sculpture is only about three feet tall). It’s eerie—like evidence from a crime scene.
Finke’s ultra-smooth hog, which looks 3-D printed, is the real deal, transformed by white spray paint on one side and blue camo on the other. Scherer’s Johnny & Kate—based on a 1990s picture by Annie Leibovitz—is dead/alive, made of dull bronze but soft looking, as if it were molded in Plasticine. Its mixture of sexiness and vacancy overrides the sordid celebrity voyeurism—the serene figures seem more pleasantly bored than blissed out.
Profanation isn’t simply the debasement of the holy—it’s the returning of divinity to the human realm. Finke and Scherer try to find transcendence in a world of slutty tabloids and LEDs. Their tableaux don’t trade in mean-spiritedness, as a shooting-star ornament made from pinecones adorning the entrance to the (maybe?) Christ child’s resting place lovingly suggests.
Putting on a commanding exhibition during Art Basel isn’t easy, but this gallery has succeeded with a display of Kurt Schwitters’s Merz to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the Dada movement, launched at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Featuring several dozen posthumous works by Dada’s agent from Hannover, the exhibition was designed by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid—who died a few weeks before the opening—making for a perfect pairing.
Schwitters famously constructed the Merzbau, 1923–37—an expressionist Gesamtkunstwerk lost in a hail of bombs during World War II—in his family’s home. Far from the artist’s spatial collage with its many nooks and crannies, in Hadid’s flowing installation a visitor can experience a free-form adaptation of it through bellied curves of plastic and marble, among other materials, that stretch as if to suck the capital out of the banks across the street into the gallery space. One is led to and immersed in the furthest niches and alcoves of the display, finding constructivist collages made of painted segments of wood such as Blue, 1923–26, and Treble Clef, 1923–27, or works on paper like Mz 196, 1921. Along with these are a great deal of what would now be designated as “mail art,” including letters and postcards that were supposed to carry the artist out into the world via his 1919 poem “To Anna Flower,” as documented in Postcard to Mr. Walter Drexel, “Anna Blume,” 1921. It’s a pity that all that’s gathered here will soon be scattered again, widespread and little seen, but treasured.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
The memory of a childhood event—a car accident Ivan Seal survived with his family, riding in a yellow Chevette—is the genesis for his third solo show here. The gallery, located in a former garage, is an ideal stage for the revival of this memory. These oil paintings, on display for the first time, are complex constructions whose point of departure is the dismembering of cars with vibrantly colored, crystal-shaped excrescences that provide a visual balance. Six large pieces in a first room seem to suggest they are a body, with two works in the second room making up its heart and brain. The paintings reveal the artist’s memories in an equilibrium between what is resolved and what is yet to be understood. Vague backgrounds uphold wavering, impossible structures, sometimes defined by motifs such as keys or tree-shaped air fresheners.
Abstraction goes out of control in the second room, where the two canvases vulch grinning and vavet grinning (all works 2016) have stable appearances giving way to a free representation of impossible engines. Flowers and vegetation seem to sprout from the ferrous masses. These works inspired the artist’s musical composition “chevette in dub,” which gives the show its title. Like the paintings, this recording of metallic noises, engine rumblings, creaking, and belches brings into the present the resonances of moments impressed in the artist’s mind.
Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.
The white cube is a space that, in essence, does not want to be there. It must renounce itself in favor of the exhibited or performed works. It is a complicated nonplace in which art first nests and then flies away. In her debut gallery show, the young Swiss artist Miriam Laura Leonardi cleverly, and with the necessary measure of irony, turns this situation one notch further by interpreting the rooms of this gallery, with its large display windows opening onto the street, as creative birth caves: Three anthropomorphic sculptures float among the wall works, like embryos in space.
The most cheerful figurine first: Angels of Chaos 1 (all works cited, 2016) shows a doll in a white spacesuit with an oversize bright fleshy flower from a fairground carousel hovering over his head. Instead of a protective helmet, a transparent plastic hemisphere covers half of his face. What might this virile Angelus Novus herald? Like his companions, Angels of Chaos 2 and 3––a leaping chef in a white cap and a cloud that drifts over a seated headless wire figure, respectively––he can be taken as a surreal revenant of the artist as well as of her artistic role models. Leonardi appears in all three in a small black-and-white photograph affixed to the sculptures. The works are referred to, in the artist’s personal idiom, after her “spiritual mothers”: Isa (Genzken), Lutz (Bacher), and Meret (Oppenheim). Given the abundance of wit here, this is more than necromancy.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Yngve Holen and Aedrhlsomrs Othryutupt Lauecehrofn, 13 7E 2C 35 D7 16 32 9A FB 07 27 12 E1 B5 2D 16 7F 19 8D 69 D8 E8 8A 18 A3 97 7A 57 7B 14 4C 8D 0E FE 39 92 1E E1 3A 66 8A E1 1E D4 5E 2A 35 13 21 5F 20 BE 2A BD A6 9B EB 39 BA 67 AA BA E8 F6, 2016, SLS prints, sound, sixteen parts, each 8 x 4 x 4".
No matter where the German-Norwegian sculptor Yngve Holen’s works have been seen in recent years, they always focus on the pressure exerted by high-tech machines on a curiously absent human body. Even this solo exhibition “VerticalSeat”––named for the notion of a cheap airline offering only standing seats in order to squeeze more passengers onto a plane––demonstrates once again how technology looks back at its creator. Factory-fresh headlights for buses or motor scooters turn into a series of four works titled “Hater Headlight” (all works 2016), hateful-looking techno-fetish items placed as isolated components on the walls. Holen also takes handblown glass and cuts it into the shape of airplane windows for the series “Window Seat,” whose optical designs are reminiscent of the Nazar amulet, which is supposed to ward off the evil eye. Four frontal views of CT scanners, used by doctors to look inside the body, can also be found in the exhibition and are painted the bright ivory of German taxis, turning our gaze to the body in transit.
Compared with Holen’s earlier shows, what is striking here is that the artist’s material language has become noticeably more concise, distinguishing his practice through a few well-targeted interventions with corporate ready-mades. The biggest development, however, is most certainly the manifestation of bodies for an installation created in collaboration with the musician Aedrhlsomrs Othryutupt Lauecehrofn. Eerie sounds—labeled as recordings of individual vowels made by MRT scans and 3-D printers—rise from sixteen busts, which are fragments of SLS-printed faces and the glottises of both artists. This strange droning produced by a technological incursion into the interior of the body leaves the greatest impression, which is saying something, given that Cake, a Porsche Panamera sawed into four clean pieces, also makes an appearance here.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.