Critics’ Picks

View of “character limit,” 2018–19.

View of “character limit,” 2018–19.

Los Angeles

Darren Bader

Blum & Poe | Los Angeles
2727 S. La Cienega Boulevard
November 3, 2018–January 12, 2019

By now, it is standard practice for Darren Bader to excavate the soft luster and mutability of certain aesthetic horizons. Enter his illusory oeuvre and find incursions, disintegrations, and restructurings of the familiar faces and facades of the art world. In Bader’s exhibition at Blum & Poe, “character limit,” he pushes this methodology further, asking: What happens to an economy of means when you engage what scholar Eve Sedgwick called elsewhere the “epistemologically unstable shimmer of allusion and, sort of, possibility”?

Tossing aside curatorial savoir-faire, Bader has strewn around the gallery things that more or less resemble recognizably “good art” (from the more apparent Ed Ruscha pastiche to, as overheard in the gallery, “a piece that really looks like a what’s his name”). Filtered through a particular brand of semantic shimmer sold as a “Darren Bader,” these historically affixed images and texts transmute into new steady states. A book becomes bedding when printed on sheets in book (bedding) [Prototype*], n.d.; a bummed-out mannequin (which may be a reference to Bernadette Corporation’s work, or to any number of ready-made sculptures in their wake) in apparel study, n.d., dons a red cap bearing an enigmatic fragment of poetry; and a pile of fortune cookies passes as a faux Felix Gonzalez-Torres in book (fortune cookies), n.d. Put through the centrifuge of allusion—and, as the philosophers love to say, “allusion as such”—picture and text (and persona) reemerge as symptoms of malaise within their given systems of meaning. The character limit here is an ontological measure––that is, a way of studying the carrying capacity of an object under the numinous sparkle of theory, historicity, or an artist’s own projection.