Critics’ Picks

Kahlil Robert Irving, Seven Pack – Memorial edition, August 2014 (RIP), 2017, glazed and unglazed porcelain and stoneware, blue slip, gravel, glass, decals, various shades of luster, 15 x 14 x 12".

New York

Kahlil Robert Irving

Callicoon Fine Arts
49 Delancey Street
September 8–October 29, 2017

Kahlil Robert Irving’s smashed porcelain, stoneware, gravel, and glass sculptures hold multitudes. The works, cast from Styrofoam food containers, soda bottles, and paint cans, are destroyed and then pieced together into rough assemblages that interrogate material, visual, and political realities. The chaotic Seven Pack – Memorial edition, August 2014 (RIP) (all works 2017) has a sea of cigarette-butt decals adhered to its base, holding aloft seven precisely made ceramic soda bottles. Bricks, Concrete, Tubes (Mass Memorial) exclaims “I am Mike,” while Mass: Meissen TO – GO (KILLING DAILY; DAILY KILLING) screams “Ferguson burns.” Both works, via newspaper headlines and pictures of graffiti, refer to the 2014 murder of Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer. A wallpapered image of a chain-link fence in the gallery creates a decrepit “inner city” backdrop. It turns the whole exhibition into a kind of ruin, or a museological tableau of ravaged urban life.

As such the works reflect the brutality and corrupt politics of today. Bits of what may have been a bowl or a plate form the base of a wreck made from brick and gravel in BLACK and Blue: (RIP – New layers – No Charges for Wilson or Europe)—a meditation on the vicious intersections of social economics and race relations. More headlines about Michael Brown appear among the work’s defiled surfaces. It becomes clearer that the history of porcelain as an indicator of wealth in colonial America is used to deconstruct and forge links between contemporary violence and America’s past. Irving pushes us into a terrifying free fall that forces us to ask, “What now?”