Critics’ Picks

Paul Elliman, Untitled (September Magazine), 2013, offset lithography, porphyry stone, dimensions variable.

New York

Paul Elliman

619 West 27th Street
September 7–October 26

Paul Elliman’s Untitled (September Magazine), 2013, the centerpiece of his debut and long-overdue solo exhibition in the US, is a copy full of copies without an ounce of copy, more or less. Mimicking a hefty high-gloss fashion periodical, the majority of its 592 pages features a lone image of cropped body parts from a similarly sleek advertisement or editorial feature, yet without any accompanying text. But stick around to flip through the entire book: Page by page, the work produces an assembly of letters, symbols, and other glyphs—abstracted limbs as found poetry. Elliman’s unusual wordplay and the work’s sly mood in a way recalls Jack Goldstein’s Selected Writings, 1993–2000, his self-proclaimed “autobiography” of appropriated and reformatted lines from philosophy books. Like the Goldstein book, Elliman’s magazine toys with notions of writing, editing, authorship, and type, and perhaps most of all, ways to control all four.

The rest of the show offers up a fine selection of Elliman’s art from the past twenty years. His ongoing project Found Fount, 1989–, is presented in the gallery via black portfolio boxes on two tables. The boxes store confederacies of discarded items that Elliman has gathered from urban places—stainless steel key rings, steel brush blades, ferrite metals, and broken links from stolen bicycle locks—which resemble unique letterforms and herald that one person’s trash could be another’s typeface. For True Lover’s Knot, 2013, a necklace of small, multihued beads, Elliman collected poisonous berries in his local London neighborhood and then had thirty produced in Venetian glass. The piece elegiacally highlights the history of decorative “slave beads”—glass trinkets traded from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries for goods, services, and humans. The beads played a shifting role in a slippery system, as alluring and destabilizing signs of exchange. As some of the least wordy things on view, they still speak loud and clear.