Critics’ Picks

The Gap, 2007, 16-mm color film (transferred from video), 15 minutes. Installation view.

New York

Oliver Payne & Nick Relph

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street
620 Greenwich Street
September 15–October 13

At the back of Oliver Payne and Nick Relph’s 2004 catalogue is an interview with a botanist who helped identify the York groundsel, a new plant species discovered growing between a railway station and a parking lot in York, England. No doubt the story attracted the artists as a metaphor for creative development, urban topography transformed into art. While their interests in city life and youth culture remain apparent in this show—for example, mirrored walls whose stenciled pattern reconfigures the Aphex Twin logo—a primary focus here is the evolutionary cycle of art and design. A version of Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel stands next to an altered 16-mm film projector, its back spool replaced with the wheel of a bike; holes punched in the film, to accommodate the tips of the metal spokes, produce the projected images. In the side gallery, the readymade returns, remade with more contemporary elements: a white high-tech wheel and a stool of black plastic.

A number of works, though, seem less optimistic in tone than the tale of the gritty weed. An Aeron chair has been reupholstered with men’s shirts—office worker merged with office furniture. Another, with metal studs sticking out of its fabric, has become an ergonomic bed of nails. No matter how aesthetically pleasing and lumbar supporting your workplace, having a job is still a pain in the ass. On the walls hang framed taxonomies of mouse pads—one all shades of blue; the other, tree frogs—frozen behind thick privacy glass. Perhaps in a nod to the artists’ new home, Los Angeles, the 16-mm film The Gap, 2007, features footage of visitors at a car show, admiring a futuristic model. Despite the vintage look, the content is contemporary: The car was designed by Lexus for the 2002 movie Minority Report. The one work on display not made this year is the animated film Swoon Soon, 2006, in which a figure walks through a landscape of logos, cartoon characters, and other appropriated imagery—obviously fertile ground for the artists.