Hannah Barry Gallery
4 Holly Grove Peckham
March 8 - April 23
How do you walk around a show? In and out at high speed, zeroing in on a few key exhibits, or methodically evaluating each work in relation to some unifying idea? Or, as curator Christopher Green recommends, do you saunter through desultorily, surrendering to the journey without preconceptions?
Showing sixteen divergent artists, Green prompts us to recall Robert Walser’s walking habits and attitude of attentiveness to small things. Walser’s ironic and paradoxical 1917 novella, The Walk, insists the stroller observe “a child, a dog, a fly, a butterfly, a sparrow, a worm, a mouse, a cloud, a hill, a leaf,” and, likewise, Green relishes his list of things, as each one is given room to unfurl and reveal its oddness. Wandering past Hreinn Fridfinnsson’s photographic tribute to his Icelandic shepherding days we see two of Richard Artschwager’s obdurate and extraterrestrial-looking blps, 2013. Adjacent is Untitled, 2014, an icy moonscape by Etel Adnan, not far from Ian Hamilton Finlay’s characteristically pithy neon sculpture A,E,I,O, BLUE, 1992, and Vicken Parsons’s self-effacing, gray oil paintings. Moving upstairs, we make out Vija Celmins’s delicate spider-web drypoint Untitled (Web) 4, 2002, opposite Mary Heilmann’s smoldering painting Idriss, 2012. Approaching the window we find ourselves before a small video monitor showing Jem Cohen’s affectionate and short documentary, Anne Truitt, Working, 2009. And interspersed throughout, like droll punctuation, are Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber’s cartoon-like miniatures, including one of a corpse buried beneath a plant (You will be flowers, 2016).
There’s no way to collapse such heterogeneity under one organizing concept. Best to take Walser at his word and wander through as if this were “more a subtle circular stroll than a forced ride and march,” and succumb to the nonsequential pleasures and intellectual provocations invited by these enigmatic works.