New York

Haluk Akakçe

Henry Urbach Architecture

With its matte colors, hard-edged, graphic forms, and elements of avant-garde fashion and wall painting, all in favor lately, Haluk Akakçe’s recent show seemed at first to exude a certain trendiness. But thankfully “Coming soon,” the Turkish-born artist’s solo debut in the US, was not the art world’s answer to pony skin or pashmina.

The exhibition comprised twelve framed works on paper and a large mural that spread out over three walls of the small, unassuming gallery. The latter, Drained from the corner of your eye (all works 2000), showcased the deceptively simple liberties of line drawing—summoning forth something from nothing, with only a steady flow of ink and a confident hand—while playing with positive and negative space and perspective. In one area, the steel-gray paint on the floor crept a few inches up the wall, making the room feel like a box within a box, the inner shifting slightly to reveal the outer. Up in a corner, a billowy, cloudlike shape negated the hard angles of its setting, while highlighting the gallery’s motion detector: a meeting of the fanciful and the technological. On the rear wall, a painted curtain pulled back as if to reveal something, though in fact the curtain image itself was the show, with its dangling, elaborately ruffled sections and a corner cut away into an elaborate lattice pattern that seemed almost to breathe. Throughout, there was the sense that one was seeing the fleeting stages of a constantly evolving process.

The paintings on paper displayed a typically idiosyncratic mishmash of influences: Art Deco, sci-fi and cyborgs, Dr. Seussian architecture, even a touch of comic-book romanticism and the aforementioned fashion. Akakçe seamlessly melds these elements into a shape-shifting world that on some level mirrors contemporary reality, with its transforming or evaporating distinctions between nation and corporation, public and private, technological and organic, even genders and species. Akakçe’s figures and alien-looking flora have been crossbred with fantastic mechanical apparatuses, which themselves often seem to be agents of surveillance, transport, or bondage. In Together Forever, an Ophelia-like figure lies prone against a celery-colored background, with a large appendage sprouting from the center of her gown and hovering protectively over her. Dropped from the skies before features another damsel, this one dripping with Deco accoutrements, arms bound in a single, ruffle-edged sleeve and held coyly behind her back.

If Akakçe’s fluid line and fertile imagination bring to mind Inka Essenhigh’s rubbery creatures, his output disturbs on a more cerebral level, while also betraying a kind of hothouse pleasure in both the decorative and the erotic. And despite a certain mannered quality that can supersede the content, the work shares an affinity with the warped braininess of Matthew Ritchie, Bonnie Collura, and Toland Grinnell: artists who portray an entire alternate reality, bolstered by a comprehensive (if also confounding) worldview. If the title “Coming soon” was intended to foster a sense of anticipation, this compelling debut confirms that Akakçe is already well on his way.

Julie Caniglia