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