Critics’ Picks

View of “Testing Time,” 2013.

London

Judith Hopf

Studio Voltaire
1a Nelsons Row
October 12–December 14, 2013

In Judith Hopf’s latest solo exhibition, “Testing Time,” a cubic structure made of fabric is suspended from the ceiling. Open at the top and bottom, the bulky cube hovers at eye level. Trying to enter the black box, viewers circle around it like they would a Minimalist object, searching in vain for an entrance. One must access it counterintuitively by bending down and slipping into the space, where the show’s central piece, a contemporary adaption of the film Le Bateau de Léontine (Betty’s Boat), 1911, by Romeo Bosetti, is on view on a single screen.

The heroine in Hopf’s Lily’s Laptop (all works 2013), similar to the one in the original, is a young girl who resists parental orders and floods her home with water in an act of rebellion. If the girl in Le Bateau evokes the radicalism of the suffragette (as was heavily debated in the years around the film’s release), Lily’s Laptop addresses (female) militancy today and how art may or may not serve as a space to reclaim it. Reaching a comedic climax, the video ends with a scene in which a canvas plunges down a concrete staircase. The enduring materiality of the concrete and the cool rigidity of the cube as referenced in the film summon up the signifiers of an aesthetic (male) tradition that Hopf is putting to the test, a fact that is not lost throughout the other works in the show.

Dispersed on the floor in front of the black cube is Flock of Concrete Sheep, ten concrete cubes of varying sizes, each donning a drawing of a sheep’s face—demure portraits that belie the sternness of their support. Placed opposite to these anthropomorphized objects is “Untitled (Captchas),” a six-part series of digital prints displaying Captchas (automated tests to distinguish humans from computers). Viewed alongside Hopf’s concrete sheep, this work begs the question of whether the concrete materiality of today is the automated poetry of algorithms.