Critics’ Picks

View of “Heathers,” 2014. From left: May Hands, Guilty, (Gucci), 2014; May Hands, Endless Euphoria (Calvin Klein), 2014.

London

“Heathers”

Rowing
2 Leswin Place
September 19–October 25

This exhibition in a small, single-room gallery displays twenty-two works by nine artists. It should feel claustrophobic, but the curation by Alex Ross is acutely balanced and simple without being too austere or overly Minimalist. Comprising a variety of mediums—digital prints on fabric, embroidered canvas hung on metal rods, painted papier-mâché, and printed sleeves inside PlayStation game cases from a series of works addressing recent, highly publicized school shootings—the works on view would give the impression of being thematically related, given its organization under a title taken from the 1988 black comedy Heathers, yet it is the acute focus on materiality that each piece has in common.

Daniele Milvio’s glazed clay works, including colorful bowls and ashtrays, are hung on walls and have toothy, wicked grins cut into their bottoms as if delighting in rejecting a more functional use. Two canvasses by May Hands, both made of polythene and netting stretched over aluminum, have fragrance test strips affixed to the backs. Titled Endless Euphoria (Calvin Klein), and Guilty, (Gucci), both 2014, these have a sensual appeal that engages our sense of smell, widening the typical boundaries of interaction with artworks. The pieces in this exhibition demonstrate a compelling, contemporary engagement with craftsmanship, luxuriating in their technical, tactile qualities. The overall impression is a bit like that of a teenager’s bedroom, filled with handmade objects serving as signs of embellished individuality slightly detached from the outside world, cumulatively creating a deep sense of intimacy in a public space.