Critics’ Picks

Kasper Sonne, History Is Optional (black box), 2003–2009, mixed media on canvas, wood, industrial paint, mirror glass, Euro pallet, 27 x 39 x 31”.

New York

Kasper Sonne

Judith Charles Gallery
196 Bowery
September 16–October 24, 2010

Upon entering Kasper Sonne’s solo exhibition in this new gallery, one first notices an overwhelming absence of color. Most obvious are the shiny black surfaces of several Minimalist monolithic sculptures and the black-and-white perfume advertisements that Sonne has transformed by covering nearly all of the original text and images in black paint. Only the promises that lay in words such as ETERNITY, OBSESSION, and HAPPY remain. But in the end these are only fragmented utterances. Language here acts to penetrate, break open, and cause violence to the perfectly crafted objects on view. However, one is never quite sure whether it might be the other way around: whether it is not the self-contained objects that are doing violence to the fragility of utterances and words.

Following Minimalist tradition, Sonne seems to be reducing his output to the minimal amount of surfaces, shapes, and textures, avoiding references to anything beyond the work as a physical, spatial object. But we can hear, emanating from Sonne’s all-black monoliths, the unintelligible sounds of a repetitive series of words. It is Sonne’s use of language that creates a contrast to Minimalism’s avoidance of embedded narrative, metaphor, and context. In History Is Optional (black box), 2003–2009, there are supposedly four paintings locked inside each of the black boxes, which are placed atop a mirror. In order to find out whether this is true, we would have to take a hammer and break them open, but by doing so, we would also risk destroying what is inside of them.