Critics’ Picks

Mike Kelley, Satanic/Pagan Indoctrination, 1995, collage on paper, 14 x 11".

New York


BUIA Gallery
541 West 23rd Street
February 23 - March 31

As the title suggests, everyday materials—nail polish, cola, old clothes—unite the artworks in this exhibition. But there is more variety among the conceptual and sculptural approaches of the seventeen artists represented here than a simple junk-store aesthetic might suggest, not to mention the rather surprising appearance, in such an offhand-seeming show, of heavy hitters like Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Hirschhorn, Mike Kelley, and John Bock.

Peter Coffin’s Untitled (Earth Resonate Frequency), 2007, an ordinary amplifier evidently tuned to the frequency of the earth, contributes to the show’s neo-readymade atmosphere an awareness of the conceptual leaps required of viewers; that Maurizio Cattelan apparently fiddled with the amplifier’s knobs raises the question of precisely what crazy frequency it’s tuned to at the moment. Kelley and Hirschhorn collage found images, but where Hirschhorn’s work displays his usual obsessed and doggedly worked flavor, in this case suggesting a spiritual link between Saddam Hussein and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kelley lets his innocuous images of children playing with toys resonate with suggestive titles (as in Satanic/Pagan Indoctrination, 1995).

What works so nicely here is the way such ordinary objects slide from meaningless to meaningful and back again, each engaging and enlightening the next. In this atmosphere, the artist collective Claire Fontaine’s black backpack filled with candy, entitled If you see something, say something, 2005, is in fact loaded with a kind of metaphoric potential, a bomb waiting to be detonated by the works around it.