Critics’ Picks

View of “One Blow In Anger (Evidence 2011–2014),” 2015.

View of “One Blow In Anger (Evidence 2011–2014),” 2015.

New York

Villa Design Group

Mathew | Gallery | New York
46 Canal Street
January 9–February 21, 2015

Villa Design Group’s first exhibition in New York, “One Blow In Anger (Evidence 2011–2014),” sinisterly flirts with the porous, parasitically connected lifestyles and aspirations of bohemia and the bourgeoisie. Here, aristocratic values shape the blueprint for a restless social circle’s ambitions, and in turn isolate these young bohemians as they strive for la dolce vita. The thread connecting the exhibition’s framed array of fine sketches and collages on graph paper is Evidence of Childhood I–XIX, 2015, a nineteen-part tale etched on aluminum plaques that are positioned individually below the framed works. This noir fiction recounts the murderous exploits of some few arriviste minded bohemians, punctuated by self-fashioning, vengeful greed, episodic betrayal, and pools of blood. Posh, albeit sterile, symbols of luxury and taste act as ready-mades and are bestrewed about the gallery space, including reproduction Barcelona chair frames and atavistic Calvin Klein Collection sweatshirts emblazoned with the label’s hallmark fragrances (Obsession, Eternity, Escape).

It is very difficult not to take the cynical exchanges described between the parable’s figures, Master Jays, Master Clark, and Master Connick, as an allegory for Villa Design Group’s own perspective toward collaboration and artistic communities—indeed, the exhibition’s press text confirms this. The narrative, coupled with the group’s use of fetishy, aspirational luxury design objects as raw material for their practice, outlines a harsh critique of hegemonic bourgeois values and yearning social climbers. What’s unclear—and detrimental to the project—is how, if at all, the artists situate any concern toward their own function as fabricators of taste and material goods directly marketed to an aristocratic clientele. Leaving this unsettled, “One Blow In Anger (Evidence 2011–2014)” appears to subscribe to a myopic, particularly late-capitalist logic: that subversive politics can be somehow made while working with steady materialist cravings and latent yearnings for accumulated wealth.