Steven Cairns

  • Richard Hughes

    Over two walls of the expansive gallery housing Richard Hughes’s largest exhibition to date, “Where It All Happened Once,” a network of rusting pipes spelled out the word NOWHERE. Titled Sleeping Rust, 2012, this piece suggested a regional hinterland—forgotten and neglected—as the context for the other works in the show (several new, with others made over the past six years). But then again, it could be read as “now here” as easily as “nowhere,” this shifting meaning a subtle reminder that the exhibition might resist an easy or singular interpretation.

    Beneath this mysterious sign, the

  • Steven Claydon

    British artist Steven Claydon’s comprehensive solo show “Culpable Earth” invests the artist’s interests in tradition and ethnography with a contemporary approach to museum display. The exhibition, his first major solo show in the UK, reads as a contemporary retelling of a forgotten or unknown history. It is one filled with bearded men, ambiguous pseudomachinery, and quizzical artifacts.

    Taking center stage in the exhibition is The passage of differentiated substance (all works 2012)—a large, carlike combination of wheels, I I beams, and an antique-looking barrel with a cast of a face protruding

  • Josh Brand

    Josh Brand’s solo exhibition “Nature” was striking for its comparisons of opposing qualities—black and white, nature and city, large and small. Numerous photographic works were uniformly hung along the walls of the gallery like strings of punctuation marks, and as his subject matter was on the whole sedate, they collectively instilled a sense of contemplative reflection among those viewing them. The exhibition comprised unique palm-size black-and-white C-prints, alongside several larger photographs and works made using hand-manipulated photographic paper. The subject of all these works was,

  • Thea Djordjadze

    While Berlin-based Thea Djordjadze’s practice centers on sculptural concerns, it also deals in a language of rhythm and movement that frames the performative aspects of an artist’s production process. Djordjadze’s works are often at odds with the fragility of the plates, clay, or other materials she commonly employs, yet she avoids the irony usually associated with their offhand use. Her handling is sincere and refreshing, calling for an interpretation that goes beyond a simple identification of anonymous shapes and happenstance configurations. Her use of hard materials—usually metal or

  • picks October 17, 2011

    Moyra Davey

    Moyra Davey’s HD video Les Goddesses (all works 2011) is a nearly hour-long exploration of psychological space. Recorded in her New York apartment, the work feels by turns claustrophobic and melancholic as it charts the links between her life and that of eighteenth-century British writer and protofeminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Binding the piece together is the artist’s on-screen narration, her repetition of a prerecorded monologue that she wrote, which is fed to her through a handheld recorder. Davey’s dependence on this device creates an uneasy and slightly unhinged mood; she stumbles to deliver

  • picks September 17, 2011

    Ruth Ewan

    Time is central to Ruth Ewan’s exhibition “Brank & Heckle,” both in her use of archival material and in the reprise of outdated political ideals. The show’s centerpiece is an oversize clock titled We Could Have Been Anything We Wanted to Be, 2011. Though at first glance it seems like a regular clock, its face contains the numbers one to ten, each hour consisting of one hundred minutes and each minute one hundred seconds. As such, it skews the time presiding over the exhibition, reviving a decimal system of time that was used briefly in France following the French Revolution. Nearby, Ewan’s

  • picks September 02, 2011

    Hans Schabus

    Hans Schabus’s exhibition “Remains of the Day” catalogues his family’s refuse––the residual leftovers from one year’s worth of foodstuffs and consumables. Cleaned and organized into groups, his empty bottles, electrical appliances, clothes, and other household items stretch the entire length of the gallery and its reception space. While the appropriation of refuse has a reasonably significant art-historical legacy, Schabus’s rendition confronts current trends in ephemeral sculpture and consumptive behavior head-on.

    The Vienna-based artist asks the viewer to engage with the forms, tones, and

  • picks May 02, 2011

    Nathaniel Mellors

    The cryptic narrative in Nathaniel Mellors’s ongoing work Ourhouse, 2010–, unfolds in episodes one, two, and four at the ICA. These oddball video melodramas play out in three darkened cabins constructed inside a single gallery and chart the Maddox-Wilson family and their dilapidated mansion in the English countryside with Beckettian absurdity. Mellors also presents Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse), 2010, a spotlighted animatronic sculpture of two robotic heads, cast from the face of one of the actors in the film. Delivering a looped dialogue, this lifelike two-headed monster (one fleshy and one blue,

  • picks January 23, 2011

    Hilary Lloyd

    The intelligence exuded by Hilary Lloyd’s most recent works is impressive, and their staging in London, in her first major solo show to grace the capital in over a decade, is significant. In Lloyd’s practice, our anesthetized dependence on audiovisual technologies is examined through the sculptural presence of electronic devices. Although the exhibition consists of still and projected images, the attendant projectors, flat-screen monitors, and DVD players are given equal importance in the meticulous and often anthropomorphic installation.

    The six-channel projection Man (all works cited, 2010)

  • picks January 20, 2011

    Jutta Koether

    Berliner Schlüssel, or “Berlin Key,” refers to a peculiar double-headed key common to Berlin apartment buildings, which must be fed all the way through the door and can only be retrieved once the door, having been unlocked from one side, is closed and locked from the other side. Jutta Koether takes inspiration from this action, as well as from French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour’s musings on the sociological implications of the mechanism, in a series of new paintings and sculptures. In this body of work, Koether calls into question the function of each piece in relation to the

  • picks November 29, 2010

    Duncan Campbell, 6th Berlin Biennale, Richard Hamilton

    Artists Space’s presentation in March of Duncan Campbell’s Make it New John, 2009, gave a further twist to his fifty-five-minute film, which I had previously seen at two of the institutions that had commissioned the work: Chisenhale, London and Tramway, Glasgow. Alongside the film, which centers on the ill-fated DeLorean DMC-12 and the Northern Irish political landscape that facilitated the luxury cars’ production, was a vast collection of early-1980s, DeLorean-related printed matter that amplified the film’s nostalgic contexts and further tested viewers’ resilience to aesthetic seduction.


  • picks November 17, 2010

    Clunie Reid and James Richards

    Although collage and video come from very different art-historical canons, the pairing of works by Clunie Reid and James Richards in this exhibition presents some striking aesthetic affinities between the media. Both artists explore the recent past through their choices of subject matter and methods of presentation. Richards’s Call and Bluff, 2009, a montage of found material from feature films and instructional VHS tapes, is displayed on four Hantarex monitors, a once-common gallery fixture superseded by the flat-panel monitor. The interplay between the footage (including excerpts from A

  • picks October 17, 2010

    Babette Mangolte

    Babette Mangolte’s career was founded on collaboration; her important role in the 1970s New York experimental dance and performance scene grows out of her work as a cinematographer and photographer of many of its key players’ pieces, including those by Lucinda Childs and Yvonne Rainer. This exhibition, Mangolte’s first in Scotland, is dedicated to her collaborations with Rainer, and it includes her first film, What Maisie Knew, 1975, which is shown alongside a selection of photographs taken during several of Rainer’s performances of the same period.

    The film outlines Mangolte’s affinities with

  • picks August 10, 2010

    “The New Décor”

    “The New Décor” seems like a straightforward title for a group show exploring sculptural objects and their domestic contexts, but it also questions the way these works function within the exhibition context. For many of the participating artists, including Tom Burr, Thea Djordjadze, and Marc Camille Chaimowicz, ideas of the interior constitute pivotal markers in their art; for others, such as Spencer Finch and Raqs Media Collective, the exhibition adds its conceptual slant to works of theirs that already have other complex narratives. While all the pieces on view bear a physical resemblance to

  • diary July 17, 2010

    Piece of Cake


    TRAVELING ACROSS LONDON on the tube in sweltering heat might seem a challenge, but last Saturday it felt like nothing compared with the marathon thirteen-hour performance at Chisenhale by artist and cult icon Linder. On arrival at the space, located in the farthest reaches of the East End, I was greeted by gallery director Polly Staple, who gave me the rundown. By midday, The Darktown Cakewalk: Celebrated from the House of FAME, as the event was called, was already in motion, with two of the lead characters engaged in a meticulously choreographed dance sequence and the gallery peppered with a

  • diary April 23, 2010

    Art Versus the Volcano


    PREDICTING CLOUD OVER GLASGOW is easy enough, but no one could have anticipated that a cloud of volcanic ash would be the burden of this year’s Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art. With UK airspace on lockdown this past weekend it meant delays and disappointments, or, in some cases, a convenient excuse for respite for trapped and weary travelers. When I arrived at the festival’s opening reception last Thursday at the baroque Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the official speeches had already begun, and a small crowd was eagerly awaiting director Katrina Brown to kick things off so everyone could

  • picks April 08, 2010

    Ben Rivers

    Ben Rivers’s 16-mm film Origin of the Species, 2008, is a poetic reprise of Darwinian theory and a humble portrait of S, a man living on the fringes of society. Within the gallery, the artist has constructed a shantylike building in which his sixteen-minute film is projected. The dwelling creates a space where viewers can disassociate themselves from the gallery, which results in an intimate viewing experience that accentuates the tactile and romanticized nature of Rivers’s materials and the film’s subject matter. The patchwork of different components Rivers used to build the construction also

  • picks March 29, 2010

    Kaye Donachie

    The six new paintings by Kaye Donachie in her fourth solo exhibition at this gallery depict various female poets, actors, and artists from the early twentieth century and form an interconnected image of women known for their avant-garde attitudes. In her musings over protagonists such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Nina Hamnett, Michael Corinne West, and Mina Loy, Donachie has rendered her subjects with a muted pastel palette that depicts a face or figure, which, in turn, provides another focus for the viewer: the ubiquitous representation of the female form in the show. The titles of the canvases

  • picks December 07, 2009

    William E. Jones

    William E. Jones’s Tearoom, 1962/2007, recontextualizes fifty-six minutes of police surveillance footage capturing men engaging in various sex acts, originally recorded in a public restroom in Mansfield, Ohio, in 1962. For this exhibition, the digitally transferred film is screened for twenty-four hours a day in the gallery’s window, thereby boldly permitting a projection that is partially visible from the street. Jones has left the 16-mm footage virtually unedited; in turn, the piece exists as an artifact as much as an artwork.

    The nostalgic connotations of 16 mm in contemporary practice provide

  • picks October 22, 2009

    “Art Now: Beating the Bounds”

    The premise of this exhibition is curious—its title, “Art Now: Beating the Bounds,” refers to a defunct English practice in which church parishioners would reaffirm the boundaries of their parish by physically beating the perimeter of the grounds. This theme underpinning the exhibition is a quirky reference but also provides a tenuous thematic framework for the works of the nine included artists. In this context, the most successful piece is Emilly Wardill’s 16-mm film Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck, 2007, in which the scenes from several stained-glass friezes are dramatized in a