Critics’ Picks

View of “Steven Claydon,” 2013.

View of “Steven Claydon,” 2013.


Steven Claydon

MASSIMODECARLO | Milan/Lombardia
Viale Lombardia 17 Casa Corbellini-Wassermann
November 28, 2013–January 18, 2014

Steven Claydon is fundamentally a postmodern artist. The fierce heterogeneity of his sources and the horizontal, nonhierarchical way he combines them in his work leave few doubts in this regard. But since postmodernism is a notoriously slippery term that calls for more precision, Claydon’s version of it could be compared to that of writer Thomas Pynchon. The chaotic variety of materials they both draw upon is never gratuitous, but rather necessary to the critical deconstruction of the notion that the history of culture (and history full stop) follows a coherent, linear, and progressive developmental trajectory.

From this standpoint, Claydon’s work seems lucid and precise, governed by a logic that pushes the artist to exhibit (in She from Another P, 2013) a copy of a votive statuette from 1500 B.C. alongside humanoid limbs inspired by characters in certain science-fiction films, and to place them on a base that combines Minimalist sculpture and neo-gothic decoration. His choice of materials, too, is a devious mishmash of misleading juxtapositions. Nothing is what it seems: Metal is actually chrome-plated resin, briarwood is painted metal, and so forth, in a systematic upending of the modernist faith in the inviolable truth of materials. These unclassifiable hybrids are presented, as is typical for the artist, on pedestals and panels that paradoxically refer to the archaeological or ethnographic museum. If those places specialize in validation of the past, Claydon replaces their ostensible veracities with patently fictitious narratives. In this show in particular, titled “Grid & Spike,” he is dealing with science-fiction imaginings: robots and gremlins, visions of pre-Columbian and alien civilizations. An audio recording of a distorted voice calls to mind the faraway communications of a pilot or an astronaut. In fact, it is a manipulated recording of the voice of Buckminster Fuller—a herald of modernism who, in this context, sounds much like a man from another planet.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.