Critics’ Picks

Wrong Works 2005–2006 (detail), 2007, oil on canvas, glue, and framed archival digital photograph in six parts, dimensions variable.

Los Angeles

Rafal Bujnowski

Mesler&Hug
510 Bernard Street
June 1–July 1

What happens to a painter’s rejected canvases and discarded efforts—his “wrong works”? Rafal Bujnowski has stacked several years’ worth of his unwanted paintings under a three-ton weight, transforming studio detritus into a six-part suite of sculptures and photographs, Wrong Works 2005–2006, 2007. In it, there is a kind of before-and-after dynamic: A large photograph depicts a number of the artist’s painted canvases ripped from their stretchers, lying in a limp, crumpled tangle on the floor, while five medium-format tabletlike objects protrude from the wall as evidence of the paintings’ later compression into a more sculptural form. Wrongness works for Bujnowski, and waste redeems itself under a crushing pressure that recycles trashed paintings into an investigation of density and the compact materiality of wreckage. The real visual and textural seduction is located in the marginal depth of each tablet, where layer upon layer of stratified flatness recalls the aestheticized rawness of Gordon Matta-Clark’s architectural cross-sections, particularly in light of Bujnowski’s training as an architect. Conjuring historical accretion and archaeological excavation, these works materialize thickness out of flatness, heaviness out of lightness. Elsewhere, Fishing Hook (American), 2007, a framed ink drawing of a fishing hook (or anchor) executed in four efficient strokes, hangs above a pile of rejected attempts that are creased, folded, and heaped on top of one another in the corner. Once again, the thinness of a sheet of paper acquires collective mass; a clutter of “wrongs” marks the residue of a “right.” The elusive distinction between failure and success haunts this exhibition, importantly sited in Los Angeles, which Bujnowski calls “the global capital of success.”