Critics’ Picks

View of “Anthony Discenza Presents a Novel: An Exhibition by Anthony Discenza,” 2016.

San Francisco

Anthony Discenza

Catharine Clark Gallery
248 Utah Street
February 27–April 16

Anthony Discenza’s meta-exhibition takes up the literary trope of framing devices and translates it into a problem of material information. The conceit of the show is an artist named Anthony Discenza attempting to curate an exhibition based on an unrealized exhibition by another artist with the same name. To add an additional layer of complexity and uncanniness, the unrealized exhibition was, according to the catalogue essay, based on a novel called The Disappointments that does not in fact exist.

The works in the show are suggestive of the documentation of an artistic practice as it stalls out—either being literally blocked, as in Floor Study: Impedance, a floor installation of wheel chocks used to prevent movement, or remaining hypothetical, as in the vinyl wall text Materials List for an Unrealized Artwork No 2, both 2015. The convoluted heft of the exhibition concept, in contrast with the ontological flimsiness of the actual work, generates surprising pathos around the real and the fictional Anthony Discenza, who seem to be drowning under its weight.

What pushes this show beyond an exploration of fictional identity is the way that the artist grafts these motifs onto his long-standing interest in the flow of information. Here, the focus is on its decay and degradation, literalized in the form of fading found posters of lost cats, as in the 2015 “Lost Cats” series and washed-out ink-jet prints in Composition 010, 2016. Even the exhibition catalogue is printed on newsprint, a dissipating medium that makes the disappearance of the artist’s half-realized ideas seem like a foregone conclusion.