249 East Houston Street
January 26 - March 11
If the post-internet era uses new technology to position itself as a unique, irreparable break from the past, Jesse Darling’s practice situates this move within modernism’s theological underpinnings and legacy of progress. Instead of focusing on particular trend cycles, Darling investigates how the radically new became a market demand. “Atrophilia,” the artist’s 2016 show with Phoebe Collings-James at Company Gallery, interrogated the “desire for collapse or stasis,” according to the press release. In that exhibition, a candle and a toy airplane became a fleeting shrine; two blue busts of St. Jerome’s lion had noses bandaged with Scotch tape while draped in robes made of sweatshirt sleeves. Darling suggests that all technologies, bodies, and cultures are inherently fallible but that we continually infuse them with meaning in order to survive.
In the artist’s first US solo show here, a pair of crutches—Crawling Cane and Collapsed Cane (all works cited, 2017)—noodle onto the floor, limp and unusable, while a burnt hygienic curtain is only partly mended by steel snaps (Cut Curtain). Framed waiting-room posters with asemic script have cartoonish or equally opaque scribbles graffitied onto the glass, forming double-layered paintings. In one, Untitled (waiting room poster/municipal hospital series), angel wings have been added to a pregnant body with a “penis.” Transforming abject medical devices into the figures they are meant to hold up, Darling’s art examines the ways institutional and informal care networks have been made precarious. Overworked, underfunded hospitals struggle to look after patients who are themselves struggling to look after family and friends. If independence is impossible, you may not be able to realize it until you can’t care for yourself. Darling’s sculptures aren’t so much living as they are hanging on.