Critics’ Picks

Kevin Jerome Everson, Westinghouse 3, 2019, video, color, silent, 2 minutes 42 seconds.

Kevin Jerome Everson, Westinghouse 3, 2019, video, color, silent, 2 minutes 42 seconds.

New York

Kevin Jerome Everson

Andrew Kreps | 55 Walker
55 Walker St
February 29–April 11, 2020

Two silent films frame Kevin Jerome Everson’s newest exhibition here. They feature a character, Derek Whitfield, ironing . . . and ironing. He never speaks, nor does he look out at the camera. The lens focuses primarily on his torso and hands working their way across a stark white bed sheet. In both films, Whitfield goes about his task using a rubber cast sculpture of an iron, made by Everson. Neither appliance has an electrical cord, emphasizing the ineffectual nature of such a repetitive endeavor.

There’s something strikingly Kafkaesque yet incredibly tender about the way that Everson captures the futility of his subject’s actions. Much of this has to do with meticulous, quiet juxtapositions. In the black-and-white film, Whitfield turns into an eerie silhouette, virtually indistinguishable from the shadowy backdrop. A troubling slippage occurs where arm and iron merge and the body becomes object, an endless machine. In the color film, however, warmth abounds. The shots are tighter, more intimate. The camera lingers on Whitfield’s arms and face, making the scene more about the humanity of the laborer and labor, and less about getting lost in the folds and creases of whiteness. Toward the end, Whitfield even gazes off-screen, smiling bashfully.

What does America do with its industrial ghosts, with all the outmoded technologies and inoperable inventions of its aged manufacturing and raw-materials commerce? How does it reconcile decayed, extractive economies with the ruin they continue to inflict upon natural ecologies and bodies, black ones in particular? Everson’s critical sleight of hand effortlessly permeates this pair of deceptively simple pieces, giving renewed agency to the body while bearing poetic witness to the worker himself in the age of surveillance capitalism.