Critics’ Picks

View of “Daniel Canogar: Billow,” 2020.

View of “Daniel Canogar: Billow,” 2020.

New York

Daniel Canogar

bitforms gallery
131 Allen Street
April 22–August 16, 2020

Daniel Canogar’s sinuous, ripple-like sculptures emanate colorful LED light in “Billow,” his solo exhibition here. It’s no accident that his bending architectural forms mimic hills, valleys, and mountains: Their slumbering shapes make the works’ cascading waves all the more hypnotic. As time passes, unexpected color shifts arise. Rich Prussian blues turn turquoise, only to be invaded by swaths of lemon yellow. Periodically, eroded alphabets also course along their curves, mingling with abstracted tints and tones. Outside bitforms gallery’s windows, passing cloud formations cause subtle modifications in interior lighting—various glows illuminate black walls. 

The animations embedded in Canogar’s five soothing sculptures here are made from data, culled in real time vis-à-vis current Google trends. Hues morph depending upon how hot or viral a topic is. What initially seems like an unholy marriage of digital Color Field painting and swirling neo-geo aesthetics is in fact based in information: meaning-filled flows of capital, algorithmic interests, and fleeting popularity. The matter of media luminosity is never exclusively optical, and in the case of Canogar, patterning plays with the political economy that underpins our incessant internet rifling.

That my first in-person viewing of an exhibition in four months was occupied by digitized data wasn’t lost on me. Thermal cameras came to mind as I stared at the sculptures’ murky edges, as did a recent article on how infrared tech might spot sick people in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. I couldn’t help but think that these pieces might be taking our temperature. And in a way, they do, as they’re synchronized to capture the world’s collective interests while fashioning an imprint of our transitory interior. What “billows” here isn’t simply a lush cybernetic landscape. The rare word that reveals itself in the works’ inky stenography—such as “policy” or “chemotherapy”—surfaces like a subtle rumor or hidden agenda. In the end, biometrics are biopolitics.