New York

Oliver Payne and Nick Relph

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

Those accustomed to Oliver Payne and Nick Relph’s early, collagelike films, in which images of life in and around London are set against documentary-style narration or music by (among others) the Sex Pistols and Terry Riley, may have been surprised to find that the artists’ most recent exhibition was slick, sculptural, and eerily quiet. The show did include four videos, but these are silent, and depict action that hovers in a perverse equilibrium imposed by corporate culture. Swoon Soon, 2006, for example, portrays a slinky, modish woman strutting through a primarily black-and-white realm of floating logos and pop-cultural images. By also rendering this commercial landscape in three dimensions, the artists constructed their exhibition as a showroomlike environment, perching sly critiques on high-design pedestals.

The installation featured ready-made, knocked-off, or repurposed pieces of modernist furniture by designers such as Gerrit Rietveld and Giancarlo Piretti. Fittingly, Duchampian bicycle wheels, one of which served as the reel of a film projector, punctuated the show. The film—made with a hole-punched filmstrip—produces flickering light effects that channel the spastic energy of the artists’ 2002 video Mixtape into the structural concerns of Stan Brakhage and Tony Conrad. The other 16-mm film on view, The Gap, 2007, comprises one long shot, taken by a fixed camera, of a car show in Pasadena at which visitors gawk at the futuristic concept car designed by Lexus for Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie Minority Report. Enthusiasts hover around the vehicle as if magnetically drawn to the shiny surfaces.

Among the furniture sculptures were two bastardized versions of Rietveld’s Berlin chairs, their black, white, and gray panels affixed with aluminum offshoots that together form stylized figures lounging on, and merging with, the chairs themselves—one complete with a phallic protrusion angling upward from its seat. (If the show reflected on the love triangle between art, design, and consumer, this work made consummation all the more possible.) The figures, it turns out, are sculptural reconfigurations of the logo of electronic musician Aphex Twin (who, like Payne and Relph, is known for complex, sometimes abrasive manipulations of sight and sound). The appropriated symbol was also projected, in dancing form, onto a stack of three of Piretti’s Plia chairs and was silk-screened onto mirror tiles covering two opposing walls of the main gallery. Fragmented and rearranged, the logo in the latter instance becomes a wallpaper of uniform figures caught midstride, one set facing one direction, a second the other. The figures make as if to move, yet remain frozen as a decorative, infinitely reflected pattern.

Payne and Relph have long been known for their ability to map the pyschogeography of a given locale by exploring how movement within it—walking, tube riding, skateboarding—is shaped by bureaucratic structures. They continued to do so here, but shifted their focus from London to their current base, Los Angeles. While London has “rhythm,” the artists write, Los Angeles has “drone.” Payne and Relph’s early works may have often described the dance between marginal subjects and the forces they seek to flee, but the new installation embodied the horror of a done deal, of a stagnant object-driven landscape perhaps not unrelated to the monotonous terrain of the artists’ adopted home.

Kyle Bentley