Violet Dennison and Peppi Bottrop

Brunnenstraße 115
November 23–February 1

View of “Violet Dennison & Peppi Bottrop,” 2014.

Clustered in the gallery’s elegant, domestic exhibition space, Violet Dennison’s cement and office equipment sculptures resemble a group of stir-crazy white-collar workers as imagined by Eugčne Ionesco. Like Surrealists’ plays, Dennison’s works use absurdity to poke fun at debilitating social conventions. Daffy and manic, yet oddly elegant, her sculptures hint at darker psychological unrest. For each work, the artist augments the discarded office chairs with cylinder, square, and tombstone-shaped cement forms. She then wreaths these heavy, hard configurations with plastic plants, multicolored plastic dusters, and wire that looks like waving tentacles. But the most evocative elements are the black base and the wheels of the ordinary chairs, because these foundations cannot escape the association with their former restrictive cubical dwellings. The cement stands in for a tethering to professional obligations, while the other details borrowed from corporate interior decor are meager gestures toward creative expression and cheer. Dennison’s sculptures allude to drab realities, but their apparently illogical weight distribution—all that cement on top of plastic, as in Endosymbiontic Dilation. Time To Die, 2014—turn them into objects of fun and wonder, creating characters that look ready for futures not brightened by florescent light.

Peppi Bottrop’s energizing paintings, on the other hand, could inspire Dennison’s sculptures toward freedom. His geometric graphite marks on wall-size raw canvases stapled against the gallery walls are graceful and intense, with gestural compositions that emanate exuberant energy, as in Clutch, 2014. Some of the square and headstone shapes that Dennison uses in her sculptures are loosely reproduced in Bottrop’s rough, liberal gestures—flexible enough that they could be sketches of dancers enacting free and happy versions of Dennison’s cement sculptures.

Ana Finel Honigman

Daniel Laufer

Hannoversche Strasse 85
November 23–February 8

View of “Daniel Laufer,” 2014.

In a large hall, Train of Thought, 2014, is projected on two large screens facing each other so that the work engulfs the viewer standing in between. In certain moments, images on the two screens mirror or complement each other: A train approaching on one is seen leaving on the other; a view of a spiral staircase from above is accompanied by a perspective on the same scene from below. Laufer’s installation is rich with such doublings, which effectively further complicate the film’s nonlinear plot.

Located in the former waiting area for first-class passengers inside the Harburg train station, the exhibition space is imbued with late-nineteenth-century grandeur, which quietly echoes that of the main filmed interior, a Parisian mansion abundant with velvety walls, secret doors, and landscapes by painters such as Hubert Robert. Laufer blends these spaces: A character played by the artist seems to appear on a bridge in the train station or in a study inside the mansion. In a small room behind the main exhibition hall, a table, chair, books, a globe-shaped book holder, and a painting re-create the filmed study. Laufer places two additional film spotlights in this niche—a deconstructive gesture.

The film’s spoken narration, blurring fact and fiction, includes segments from an old French text by the mansion’s previous owner about his house and collection. The work evokes the literary genre of armchair travel, wherein mental spaces are explored through meditations confined to one’s room. Laufer’s approach to space, time, action, and narration firmly belongs in the nouveau roman tradition, perhaps a po-mo variant of traveling in place.

Hili Perlson