Critics’ Picks

Tommy Malekoff, Exit Shelter 03, 2020, acrylic ink on muslin, 22 x 29 1/8''.

Tommy Malekoff, Exit Shelter 03, 2020, acrylic ink on muslin, 22 x 29 1/8''.


Tommy Malekoff

Via Carlo Boncompagni 44
February 4–March 27, 2021

French anthropologist Marc Augé coined the term non-lieu (non-place) to describe transient locations that somehow fail to acquire the status of “proper” places. Liminal, un-relational sites designed to serve a specific purpose, Augé’s non-places—airports, motorways, shopping malls, and other spaces of in-betweenness—are the geographical embodiment of “supermodernity,” a concept advanced, in a different idiom, by Rem Koolhas’s essay “Junkspace” (2002) and the “low-grade purgatory” he postulates as the byproduct of modernization.

For his first solo exhibition in Italy, Tommy Malekoff turns his almost-forensic eye to public non-places that, in their deliberate artificiality, inform the American vernacular. Installed in the gallery’s basement space, the two-channel, fifteen-minute video Desire Lines, 2019, offers a glimpse of surreal parking lot liturgy, where empty, concrete expanses become stages for instinctive performances of collectivity. A Statue of Liberty cosplayer juggles batons outside a strip mall; a prayer circle releases a string of rosary-shaped balloons up into the sky; tuned cars race and drift, screeching the asphalt; impromptu horse races and firework spectacles break the suburban tedium.

A series of nine acrylic silkscreens (“Exit Shelter,” 2020), shown on the gallery’s ground floor, maintains Malekoff’s psychogeographic approach to the uncanny architecture of banality. Here, we see highly-saturated nocturnal views of gas stations, convenience stores, and drive-thrus, made visible by their own artificial lights. Malekoff’s observational gaze captures the non-remarkability of such non-places, yet it acknowledges social function of these sites, seeking out the particularities and variations that confirm their potential uniqueness within the geography of nowhere.