Critics’ Picks

View of “Nick Mauss: Bizarre Silks, Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts, etc.,” 2020.

View of “Nick Mauss: Bizarre Silks, Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts, etc.,” 2020.

Basel

“Bizarre Silks, Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts, etc.”

Kunsthalle Basel
Steinenberg 7
February 7–September 20, 2020

Nick Mauss’s keen understanding of scenography—through which he’s often mapped interdisciplinary transmissions between drawing, architecture, artifacts, genealogies, and viewers—is here worked into a mise-en-scène featuring an eclectic array of works by eighteen artists. A substrate of Mauss’s curatorial staging lies in the eccentric grammar of the titular “bizarre silks,” from the Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy. The eighteenth-century European silk brocades begin to trace an idea of dressing or bodily presence onto the gallery, one that is achingly reinforced by Georgia Sagri’s oversize vinyl sticker works Deep Cut, Open Wound, and Fresh Bruise (all 2018). A quieter presence, Edward Owens’s lavish silent film Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts, 1968–70, plunges one into the delicate pulses of superimposed, interpenetrating images of his mother’s regal self-fashioning in a wicker chair and far-off, modernist decadences.

Rejecting genealogical cohesion, Mauss’s placements favor a gradually unfolding, perforated experience. Channeled by his painted mise-en-abyme Thresholds, 2020, the exhibition invites a fluid interplay between signs, lineages, and textures: between Rosemary Mayer’s ambitiously reenacted cellophane Ghosts, 1981, and Victor Hugo Rojas’s cheeky sacrification of a Warhol painting in Anton Perich’s 1978 film Victor Hugo Rojas; or between Megan Francis Sullivan’s color-flipped paintings of Cézanne’s bathers, The Bathers (Inverted), 2015–17, and Gretchen Bender’s disquieting multichannel video work TV Text and Image (PEOPLE WITH AIDS), 1986–93.

Mauss describes his method as one of radical juxtaposition. Here, it acts less as a fissure than a carefully staged succession of momentary encounters with different artistic sensibilities—much like the fabric of accelerated social life, where individual streams of desire and chatter gesture past one another.