Los Angeles

David Muenzer, Highlighter Ingots, 2015–16, highlighter ink, wood, latex paint, Plexiglas, 22 1/4 × 71 × 74 1/4" (melted). Photo: Veli-Matti Hoikka.

David Muenzer, Highlighter Ingots, 2015–16, highlighter ink, wood, latex paint, Plexiglas, 22 1/4 × 71 × 74 1/4" (melted). Photo: Veli-Matti Hoikka.

David Muenzer

Reserve Ames

David Muenzer, Highlighter Ingots, 2015–16, highlighter ink, wood, latex paint, Plexiglas, 22 1/4 × 71 × 74 1/4" (melted). Photo: Veli-Matti Hoikka.

To announce his first show at Reserve Ames, a Craftsman-style house-cum-gallery, David Muenzer offered a 2016 photograph reminiscent of James Welling’s early phyllo-dough abstractions, in which ambiguous forms take on a heightened significance against a neutral ground. Scattered like pick-up sticks, the neon-yellow penile forms are in fact the innards of felt-tip highlighters, the material from which “Scalar-Daemon” takes its theme. The gallery’s only show thus far to confine itself to an outbuilding (all others have spread into the residence’s bathroom, laundry room, or living spaces), Muenzer’s tightly conceived installation had a single sculpture at its core, placed at the center of the shed’s main gallery. Highlighter Ingots, 2015–16, is composed of “display equipment”—Muenzer’s term for a white, nearly two-foot-tall plinth with shallow inset Plexiglas troughs—and fluorescent slosh juiced from the markers. Muenzer soaks the tips and squeezes their sickly Day-Glo ink into water-cooler-bottle storage vats before freezing it in block-shaped molds, so-called ingots, which await later use.

Prior to the opening, and then at the beginning of each two- or three-week interval, Muenzer placed a stack of fifteen bars in one of the three trays, where they slowly melted over the course of the day. Few saw the spectacle of this transition, which was largely bracketed from view. Most viewers instead encountered one, two, or three basins full of liquid ink. With each interval, the progression moved farther back from the tray closest to the front door; when one observed it from the entrance, the composition cannily effected an evolving monochrome triptych. Meanwhile, the afterimages that hovered on one’s retina post-viewing provided a more immediate shift. Other aspects presented themselves less aggressively, and on a different timescale. Though the fluid’s evaporation over the course of the weeks was trivial, meaning that its volume remained consistent, the surface tension of the ink made a perfect shelf for the slow but continuous accrual of dust and fine debris—markers of time’s passage that accumulated on the glassine-like shell. In the space’s back room, Muenzer presented a second installation that similarly emphasized light, there emanating from handcrafted sconces that served as the only source of artificial illumination into darkened nooks. Some of the sconces looked like paper airplanes, though the fixtures are fabricated out of sandstone, resin, porous nylon, and other semitranslucent materials. Each bears a watermark: one an impression of glyphs from Laura Owens’s 356 S. Mission Road space, where Muenzer participated in a group show with the collective neverhitsend; another, installed high on the back wall like a secular icon, featured a selfie of Edward Snowden sourced from an Internet message board.

Shedding light on the industrial freezer in which the frozen ingots were stored was a porcelain sconce cast from dismembered shirt collars. This allowed the bare minimum of luminescence by which to view a folder of untitled drawings left out on a table. These sketches carried forward the concerns evident in Muenzer’s past efforts at figure drawing (including a project in which portraits were exchanged with sitters, and a forensic recording of a corporate party), but even more so did the neckline reference his white-collar projects, especially “14 & 15,” 2011, a group show he curated on two vacated floors at the Lipstick Building in midtown Manhattan, where he then worked in corporate law at Morgan Stanley. Among pieces by Becca Lieb, Rachel Harrison, and others, Muenzer contributed a self-portrait based on the photograph on his staff ID, rendered in highlighter and other supplies pilfered from the office; he later completed a set of portraits of his firm’s partners out of the same stuff. As this newest work demonstrated, and as “Scalar-Daemon” suggests in its nonsensical pun on the automated “Mailer Daemon” that confirms an e-mail’s delivery failure, Muenzer’s is an evolving logic of the artist seeking an audience but admitting from the outset the very real possibility that his attempts at communication will be stymied. Still, this does not preclude Muenzer’s nominative efforts at formatting himself into recognition.

Suzanne Hudson