Critics’ Picks

View of “Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld: Excuse Me, May I Have Some Gravel Tea?,” 2015–16.

View of “Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld: Excuse Me, May I Have Some Gravel Tea?,” 2015–16.


Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld

Galleria Mario Iannelli
Via Flaminia 380
October 28, 2015–January 16, 2016

In Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld’s latest exhibition, “Excuse Me, May I Have Some Gravel Tea?,” organic and chemical elements collide with the digital, creating an inevitable short circuit. For example, in several photographic works from her “Universal Cleaner” series (all works 2015), Schönfeld exorcises a human fear of extinction. These ink-jet prints stem from images that dissolved on an iPad after she poured liquid detergent on its screen—a most feared technological threat—and photographed the results, as in Universal Cleaner (Blue Marble), Universal Cleaner (Tiles), and Universal Cleaner (Gravity Issues).

Throughout the show, Schönfeld renounces any dramatic aspect of loss for the creation of images and confuses boundaries that separate magic and technology. Several works from the “Shaman Coat” series are made with cowhide supports. The coexistence of the spotted hide’s natural colors and the nuances of the print produce visual landscapes, while the hide becomes a spiritual medium, capable of leading the viewer to other universes. A gestural aspect also underlies the entire show. Pouring the detergent onto a screen, like hurling squid-ink linguini onto the white walls of the gallery (for Octopus Oracle), here translates into an act of protest and a query into the authenticity of natural elements.

A reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey also leads to a reflection on the origins of the world as well as to the real possibility of the disappearance of the human species. For instance, in Shaman Coat I, Dr. Dave Bowman’s glance, emerging from the cowhide, exerts a magnetic, unforgettable power.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.