Critics’ Picks


Dave McKenzie

Barbara Wien
Schöneberger Ufer 65 3rd Floor
March 3–April 14

Sometimes, the referential and spatial aspects of an exhibition sync almost too perfectly. Case in point: Dave McKenzie’s “Speeches Speeches Speeches,” which might produce a humming sensation inside a viewer, as the brain’s capacity to recognize signifiers is repeatedly cross-wired with the body’s capacity to relate to objects. In this attention to form and space, the show thus harkens to something like modernism à la Brancusi. But paradoxically, this old-school methodology is carried out by arranging curious ready-made objects along with others just a shade too unique to have rolled off the assembly line.

Take, for instance, the mask that sits on one of six ersatz heads. Mimicking human features, this disguise is cast from rubber mixed with newspaper, its finish, color, and texture recalling white chocolate flecked with brown. The other lightbulb-shaped faux crania are upholstered in fabric—three white sculptures are on one table, three dark navy on another, the former collectively titled White Confetti, the latter Black Confetti (all works 2018). These mannequin skulls flicker in and out of corporeality, adorned like mysterious fashionistas with metallic flecks, modest tassels, metal snaps, and fishnet.

The chromatic separation of these forms suggests a racial reading. But without further extrapolation of this charged subject, the interpretation sputters, and the viewer is left with a wandering narrative. The white heads sit in line atop monochromatic green digital prints and behind photos of small charms, standing atop the same green print; their navy counterparts are placed more sporadically, along with a small, white wire rack, a book standing open without pages, and a wooden block, off of which hangs a cane whose shaft descends to a floppy latex mask—light pink. Though often elusive, these sculptures find oblique passage to a shared human nerve.