John Armleder

In John Armleder’s highly original assemblages, which incorporate fragments of furniture and other found materials, one can detect a range of styles, styles that can often be linked to specific periods and places. At the same time, Armleder tends to render these materials so abstract that they become neutral, or at least not immediately recognizable, signs.

Armleder’s new work seems to be even more concerned with transforming the detritus of daily life into abstractions that cause the viewer to grope for the original significance of the materials that he is exploiting. This was especially evident in his recent exhibition in Milan, which contained large-scale works, including a wall installation, another version of which was simultaneously shown at Air de Paris in Paris. For both exhibitions, Armleder covered one wall with “D-C-Fix,” an adhesive, reflective paper often used on windows, so that the space and the people within it were mirrored imperfectly as if in a kind of frosted glass. The Milan show also contained a floor piece constructed out of large sheets of Plexiglas that had been cut up and attached end-to-end to form a shape that had an imprecise, almost fleeting geometry similar to the shadows that were cast onto the large wall. While the materials—whether found or brand-new—used in all of these works were assembled with great formal inventiveness, they also revealed a certain studied nonchalance.

Perhaps the most interesting assemblage in this show was an enormous wall piece in which large sections of variously colored Formica jutted out from a supporting plane. Here Armleder seemed to be playfully restaging Modernist painting’s pursuit of absolute abstraction, with the intention of reestablishing a connection to the phenomenal world. The Formica surfaces bore signs of wear, blotches, and discolorations that contrasted with the purer color in the supporting plane. Parts of the work consisted of kitchen tables that the artist found at a used furniture shop. Ironically, the work, though monumental in scale, was essentially humble in appearance.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore