Critics’ Picks

View of “Darren Bader,” 2016.

View of “Darren Bader,” 2016.


Darren Bader

Sadie Coles HQ | Kingly Street
62 Kingly Street
January 14–February 20, 2016

What better example is there of the corrupted flesh of the contemporary art object than a resplendent sculpture, its gleaming surface polished within an inch of its life, stuffed with rotting garbage? Darren Bader’s exhibition, “such are promises,” delights in this cunning play. A number of Bader’s pieces are teeming with refuse culled from the waste stream. From the derivative sheen of a John McCracken–like plinth to twelve metal pétanque boules, Bader conceals his waste in glossy shells. Placed in the middle of the gallery is a pétanque court, titled Sculpture #2 (all works undated). Bader’s boules are suffused with a witches’ brew of grease and detritus from a pub. Shake one of boules and the interior swooshes to and fro as if adrift at sea. One is confronted with the question: What happens when the shell cracks?

A text work by the artist, fear of unguents, declares the exhibition’s trepidation about viscous materials, à la Ed Ruscha. An unguent is a substance used as ointment or lubricant—in Bader’s case, the unguent is repressed, buried deep in the belly of his boules. When one is thrown in a swooping arc downward to the ground, you wait for it to shatter in a calamitous encounter. Perhaps here is an elaborated model of an artwork today: a thing tossed into the air, its interior spinning with junk, while we watch for a fateful collision. When it breaks, the inside becomes outside, and vice versa. Bader’s aesthetic is not one that revels in the fetid sewer of commerce but instead conceals that revolting stream within its core. These objects sour our palette.