Critics’ Picks

Nick Relph, Total Piano & Organ, 2016, ink on cotton, 140 x 62".

Nick Relph, Total Piano & Organ, 2016, ink on cotton, 140 x 62".

New York

Nick Relph

Gavin Brown's Enterprise | Downtown
291 Grand Street 3rd Floor
September 9–October 9, 2016

New York’s Carroll Musical Instrument Rentals, LLC answers the phone when you call the number emblazoned upon Total Piano & Organ (all works cited, 2016), a large canvas work on which the title is spelled out. The telephone is a motif throughout Nick Relph’s solo exhibition here, a symbol that functions as a conduit between absence and presence.

Flaming Frontier, which cuts through the gallery space diagonally, is made up of nineteen double-sided wooden panels, some of which bear C-prints. Pictures of telephones, as well as construction permits, disappear and reappear, phantomlike, through images of architectural renderings and diagrams. One gets the sense that we are looking at some kind of junkyard organism slowly building itself, piece by rough-hewn piece.

Ridicule is a pair of neatly arranged white cotton shirt collars placed on a pedestal. Another piece, with the same title, is a set of smaller, copper-colored prints, glittery and enigmatic. Many of the works in the show appear in pairs and are serialized. But what is the tissue that binds all these objects and images together? Maybe it’s something like that invisible sinew that connects the caller to the called—akin to the musculature that holds a city together. It goes beyond bricks, mortar, steel, satellites, and wires—perhaps a consciousness all its own. Relph indulges in a subtle poetry that marries cybernetic systems to the metaphysical.