Ian Kiaer

Bloomberg SPACE

The first gallery in Bloomberg Space, little more than a lobby, is a singularly unsuitable place for the display of art. With its shiny black floor and track lighting, it is coolly corporate in feel. Its irregular, small area is overwhelmed by a double-height ceiling and a corner of floor-to-ceiling glass. A footpath cuts diagonally through the tiny space, with its one oddly oblique wall, making it uncomfortable to stop and actually look at the artworks forced into its corners.

Into this unwelcoming place, Ian Kiaer has heroically installed his understated art. A painter by training and disposition, Kiaer is noted for his combinations of painting—flat monochromes, abstract patterns, or even flimsy pieces of dyed fabric, such as the lilac rectangle in Offset/Black Tulip (Yellow) (all works 2009)—with sculptural forms and readymade objects: chairs, rubber mats, and so on. Sometimes he includes small architectural models, and so his work has the tentative feel of a mock-up or study, a definitively unfinished response to site, materials at hand, and, perhaps, the entire unresolved history of painting. It is surprising that work so quiet should offer another culmination or end point in this history, yet this is precisely the artist’s idea: to suggest a route in painting’s continuing intellectual history rather than take a detour, such as “painting in the expanded field,” which Kiaer considers a new, hybrid medium rather than an extension of the logic of painting alone.

Baroque architects would respond to an irregularly shaped site—one missing a corner, or with an oblique wall—by inserting architectural features such as niches or curves in order to “correct” any irregularities. One senses that the positioning of objects here—for example, the particular angle of the tall aluminum tower Offset/Black Tulip (Frame)—a fragile-looking yet sturdy construction made of three metal frames, one atop the other, leaning against a triangular metal support—is similarly meant to balance the irregularities of the room. In Offset/Black Tulip (Black), a maquettelike, tabletop version of the same tower—looking like an anorexic version of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International—reinforces the sense of the work-as-model. Precise alignments suggest a careful attention to architecture notably absent in the disproportionate space where the objects are housed: In Offset/Black Tulip (Yellow), the left side of a monochrome yellow painting lines up with the pedestal before it and the lilac fabric above; this yellow painting’s lower edge marks exactly the midpoint between the pedestal below and the bottom of a red rectangle to the left. A small, empty, overturned yogurt container sits next to a block of Styrofoam, as if fully aware that in any other context it would be crushed and tossed in the trash. It strains to carry with it some dignity and be recognized like any work of art in this inhospitable place. Kiaer is often obliquely inspired by texts; this piece relates to Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Black Tulip (1850), about a quest to achieve a miraculous, impossibly hued flower. Here, an easy analogy for the elusive “black tulip” would be an exhibition that ennobles this space. Kiaer has managed this near impossibility; “Offset/Black Tulip” delicately counters the glaring ungenerosity of its host.

Gilda Williams