Critics’ Picks

Jamie Fitzpatrick, SPCE COMPN CAENH 8 DU OF KG GCO P C, 2016, C-type print on aluminum and oil bar, 20 1/2 x 27".

Jamie Fitzpatrick, SPCE COMPN CAENH 8 DU OF KG GCO P C, 2016, C-type print on aluminum and oil bar, 20 1/2 x 27".

London

“Object of Doubt”

Danielle Arnaud
123 Kennington Road
October 19–November 9, 2019

In April 1918, Lenin made a decree: The newly Soviet Russia should tear down statues of the tsars. Six years later, the first one of Lenin was raised. By the ’90s, his effigies were tumbling in scores. The same wheel is spinning, or jammed, wherever you find Robert E. Lee or Cecil Rhodes. Aura, too, shall pass, and “Object of Doubt,” a compact group show about monuments and their fragile authority, is toying with its expiration.

Patrick Hough’s Funerary Relief, 2016, presents a statue’s head, sans body, under a stagey single lamp, cut not from stone but from polystyrene and plaster. You only clock its materials verso and may feel an illicit urge to test its weight. This is a dramaticule about icons proclaimed as inaccessible, and the magical heft they radiate—until proximity breaks the charm. Jamie Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, dwarfs the monumental by being crass. Two recent photos of London statues—Victorian nobles cast in bronze—have been printed on aluminum, then smeared with a brown oil bar. Their Edwardian backdrop is filthed, disturbing the tidiness of the scene: Usually the statues recede into Whitehall, where the civil service resides. Power, Fitzpatrick reminds us, is laced into the urban fabric—it often hides in plainest sight.

“It’s easier to struggle with monuments than with concrete reality,” we hear in Disgraced Monuments, 1993, Mark Lewis and Laura Mulvey’s documentary on Soviet kitsch. The film, like this show, simultaneously draws out the risks in our endearment of idols and returns our attention to the here and now. In the work’s most arresting moment, we gaze over shelves of Lenin busts sheathed in tatty paper bags—symbols of lapsed command that are too legion to hide away.