Critics’ Picks

Danica Phelps, Orion's First Months (detail), 2009, pencil on paper, 1 x 66'.

Danica Phelps, Orion's First Months (detail), 2009, pencil on paper, 1 x 66'.


Danica Phelps

Galerie Judin
Potsdamer Strasse 83
September 12–October 17, 2009

Best known for works like Walking Amsterdam 9–5, 2003, a salon-style installation combining lists of the artist’s daily activities, understated illustrations, and her code for tracking personal finances through green and red stripes, Danica Phelps has built a practice on the tangled relationship between the public display of private experience and the framing conditions of the market. In her first Berlin exhibition, this and other stripe works of recent years provide a meaningful context for new drawings, sculptures, and stop-motion animations.

In much the same way that a 2003 show at New York’s LFL/Zach Feuer Gallery turned on the artist’s lesbian coming-out, announced in a self-penned press release and vivified through her and her girlfriend’s taking up residence in the gallery, the new work centers on another personal milestone: the birth of the couple’s first child last November. Orion’s First Months, 2009, is a pencil line drawing that extends across a nearly sixty-six foot scroll, which depicts Phelps, her partner, Orion, and various relatives in multiple overlapping scenes wherein her earlier work’s order and deliberation give way to the immediacy of life that swirls around a newborn. Continuing her pragmatic nod to the market, however, are Phelps’s terms for its sale, which prescribe that buyers may request any length (with a minimum of twenty centimeters), priced at twenty-eight dollars per centimeter. Elsewhere, recycled cardboard and other scraps become materials for wall-based text sculptures and a hanging collage of white paper, demonstrating an ongoing urge to keep expenses low. In what appears to be a new direction, Orion Growing, 2009, is one of two fast-paced electronic montages of color photographs in the show, of Orion supported upright by a crouching Phelps, taken daily in her bedroom during his second to sixth months. If it seems that Phelps is now ceasing to work on her iconic stripe paintings, then the multiple media suggest a search for a new course following the exhaustion of an early success.