Critics’ Picks

View of “The Book of Hours,” 2013.

View of “The Book of Hours,” 2013.

New York

Christian Holstad

Andrew Kreps | 22 Cortlandt Alley
22 Cortlandt Alley
May 11–June 22, 2013

“The Book of Hours,” the title of Christian Holstad’s debut at Andrew Kreps’s new location, is painted across the gallery’s front doors, a cue to visitors that they are stepping into an allegorical space—a loose, modern take on the eponymous medieval manuscript used as a daily prayer manual during the fifteenth century. Inside, a garden of soft sculptures, wielded from crocheted yarn, twisted towels, bent wire, and other textural flotsam, spreads across the space. Holstad intersperses more bucolic works—a tree stump, a bush of flowers, even a flock of pecking chickens (their feet expressively fashioned from yellow gloves)—among works that seem more coeval with today: A series of trashcans hang off one wall, facing a room full of assemblages that evoke an abandoned stroller and a pile of soiled adult diapers among other works. The result is a realm simultaneously reminiscent of the fifteenth and twenty-first centuries, at once pastoral and urban.

A back room, accessed through a curtained doorway, provides an intimate fort for viewing the gems of this exhibition—more than a dozen drawings made from erased pages of a newspaper. Here, Holstad reduces headlines to words like BELIEVE and INEVITABLE; advertisements and photographs are rubbed out, becoming cryptic imagery. Within the context of a now ancient book, his use of newspapers is telling. Being a devotional, The Book of Hours guided the direction of one’s day, absorbing individuals in a common ritual. In many ways, this book—one of the most popular of its time—greatly contributed to the formation of a collective cultural imagination. In a similar vein, a newspaper binds sundry demographics with a common set of information about the issues and events that shape daily life while also engendering a daily routine that could be thought of as quasi devotional—and yet it is a waning medium. At play here is a history of shared consciousness, which, set against this dystopic garden, raises questions about rituals of our present time and precisely what binds us today—Holstad’s answer seems very muddied indeed.