London-based artist Magali Reus is the recipient of the 2015 Prix de Rome for the visual arts. Her work has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at SculptureCenter in New York, the Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire, UK, and the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster, Germany. At the end of this month, a solo presentation of her sculptures will open at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin.
T. A. C. COLENBRANDER’S CERAMICS
Trained as an architect, Colenbrander (1841–1930) began to produce ceramics in the late 1880s when he joined Haagsche Plateelbakkerij Rozenburg, a factory in The Hague, as a designer. His decorative plates, specifically those made between 1884 and 1889, are gloriously patterned with graphic and organic marks that read as though rendered by a draftsman expressionistically riffing on nature. Thick layers of glossy color remain intensely magical despite their age and, miraculously, brushstrokes are visible beneath the hermetic, baked-on seal of glaze. Colenbrander’s unorthodox palettechalky pastels, mustard, and blackmakes his objects seem touched by a spooky kinetic force. These deeply covetable artifacts are completely contemporary.
TAKENOBU IGARASHI, “ALUMINUM ALPHABET,” 1983
The Japanese graphic designer is a contemporary proponent of the axonometric alphabet, used in the early twentieth century by members of De Stijl and the Suprematists alike. In the 1980s, he translated hand-drawn typographic forms into brushed-aluminum objects studded with hardware that, while rigorously precise, feature mysterious interplays of shadow and form. A wonderful example of this was the sculpture he produced in 1990 for Nike’s Air Max 180 shoe campaign, though it was only ever shown as a photograph. Igarashi’s works from the ’80s are fetishistic and tender, but they harbor at their core the futurist aspirations of a culture obsessed with the possibilities of robotics.
HILARY LLOYD, CRANE, 2010
I first experienced Lloyd’s sculptural video work in 2011 at her show at Raven Row in London, and it left me in awe. Crane, an LCD monitor mounted on vertical steel poles, had an anthropomorphic presence. It blocked one of the gallery’s doorways with a gatekeeper’s defiance, forcing the viewer into an almost sexual, full-frontal encounter. The video depicts a vast construction site set to a pumping industrial sound track; you can watch it with your eyes closed. The obstructive work jarringly exploded the architecture of the exhibition space.
This aqueous cream is not only a miracle worker for dry skin, it possesses deeply mysterious physical properties. Doublebase is packaged simply, in satisfyingly transparent plastic tubes or pump bottles that bear a bold purple label; the cream is the star ingredient here. The molecules that make up this white substance cling together, traveling defensively en masse, as if afraid to leave one of their number behind. This is ectoplasmic goo at its best.
J. W. ANDERSON, “MATHEMATICS OF LOVE,” FALL/WINTER 2013–14
I often look at Anderson’s clothes with envy because of the indulgent humor and intelligence invested in their making. This beautifully designed menswear collection was highly praised for turning gender clichés and codes on their heads. In these strange short-suit ensembles, the designer collaged the soft lines of a child’s school uniform and the chaste implications of a ruffled collar with the elegance of sculpted duffel. Erotic, architectural reimaginings of what clothing might be, these garments queer the body’s relationship to limbs and genitalia, creating silhouettes that are at once unnerving and comforting.
EQUISETUM (PALEOZOIC ERA–PRESENT)
I’ve only encountered this plant once, in a marshy patch of land during a walk through the countryside. It instantly struck me as something from the distant prehuman past. This odd, momentary slippage of time made the specimen’s authenticity seem questionable. It’s the kind of plant you might expect to find in a speculative rendering of ferocious prehistoric animals. An interesting fact: The regular spacing of equisetum’s nodes is said to have inspired John Napier’s discovery of logarithms.
ROSEMARIE TROCKEL, ATHEISMUS (ATHEISM), 2007
I’m a massive admirer of Trockel’s work, so it’s difficult to pick a favorite piece, but Atheismus is definitely a contender. While its chair-like structure and material composition suggest comfort, the object has been brutally decapitated, allowing access to its internal workingsits guts. The sculpture emerges from a tangle of wiry, felted, unearthed roots, and it hovers slightly, as if in motion. It’s like a ghost, liberated from yet lamenting its human form.
PIET ZWART, TAPIJTONTWERP 395 (CARPET DESIGN 395), 1912–13
In this simple study for a rug design, Zwart looked beyond familiar cow- and deer-hide patterns to the technologically complex skin of a caterpillar. In cloning these geometries to dazzling effect, Zwart was very much ahead of his time: His work isn’t dissimilar to contemporary research on the composition of insect cuticles or marine-animal skin in the development of high-performance fabrics.
CADY NOLAND, “TOWARDS A METALANGUAGE OF EVIL” (1989)
First published in the journal BALCON, this text explores with chilling clarity the strategies of the psychopath (or the “entrepreneurial male”), the logic of capitalism, and the brutality of the media. Noland respins the theoretical threads that run through her sculptural manipulations of commodity detritus. Penned not long before her premature exit from the art world she had so thoroughly enthralled, the essay now lingers eerily as a metaphor for her departure.
JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, UNTITLED (COUCH), CA. 1970
Only a small edition of these brown-suede-upholstered sofas were produced; the raw prototypes were shown in 1972 at Lo Giudice Gallery in New York. The announcement flyer for the show, “F⎽ ⎽ ⎽ ⎽ ⎽ ⎽G COUCHES,” featured photographs of people draped over or rocket-launching themselves onto carved urethane-foam sofas. As opposed to his masculine bent-steel and car-part sculptures, which alienate the viewer with their fierce and contorted shapes, Chamberlain’s couches, as functional objects, are decisively warmer, allowing the body comfort and access.