Bergen

Magali Reus, Sentinel (Waterfall Plot), 2017, sprayed fiberglass and polyester resin, air-brushed aluminum embroidered custom weave viscose, polyester, cotton, sand-cast bronze, laser engraved leather, cotton twine, powder-coated steel, aluminum, dimensions variable.

Magali Reus, Sentinel (Waterfall Plot), 2017, sprayed fiberglass and polyester resin, air-brushed aluminum embroidered custom weave viscose, polyester, cotton, sand-cast bronze, laser engraved leather, cotton twine, powder-coated steel, aluminum, dimensions variable.

Magali Reus

Bergen Kunsthall

Magali Reus, Sentinel (Waterfall Plot), 2017, sprayed fiberglass and polyester resin, air-brushed aluminum embroidered custom weave viscose, polyester, cotton, sand-cast bronze, laser engraved leather, cotton twine, powder-coated steel, aluminum, dimensions variable.

Eagle-eyed visitors to “Hot Cottons,” Magali Reus’s first solo presentation in Scandinavia—and the London-based Dutch artist’s largest exhibition to date—will have noticed a short column of numbers, ascending in regular intervals, discreetly incised into the plastered walls at the gallery’s threshold. This ghostly calibration was echoed intermittently elsewhere, a tantalizing complement to a myriad of glyphs, graphemes, motifs, and devices that adorned the disparate surfaces of Reus’s sculptures, as if they had swarmed through the exhibition and settled at will. Those familiar with the architecture of the Bergen Kunsthall, designed in the 1930s by Ole Landmark, will also have registered more substantial interventions in the fabric of the building. These included the addition of one wall, the modification of another, and the seamless but substantial aggrandizement of several transitions from room to room. This elegant customization not only called attention to the movement between the galleries but also enhanced the symmetry of the Kunsthall’s enfilades, which extend right and left from the central room one first encounters.

The contrapuntal nature of the exhibition design, honoring equally the orchestration of a sculptural ensemble and the integrity of its unique components, is typical of Reus’s approach. An earlier 2015–16 touring show, which encompassed Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, was conceived as a mutating configuration of works drawn from two distinct series, “Leaves” and “In Place Of,” both 2015, whose generative archetypes seem to have been, respectively, outsize padlocks and sawn-off road curbs. “Hot Cottons” likewise was composed of works from two series and is destined to be reconstituted in a subsequent venue, the South London Gallery, later this year. The “Hwael” and “Sentinel” sculptures (all works 2017), contrasted notably on several counts. The Anglo-Saxon word for “whale” invoked the image of a giant disarticulated carcass, while the sculptures themselves, displayed over the length of five interconnected galleries, suggested skeletal remains of a more machinic constitution. They resembled stripped sections of a bus, individual quadrants of which were festooned with a dedicated cargo of manufactured arcana: a scrunched backpack, a molten sneaker, a makeshift cardboard sign, a camper’s knife and fork marked am and pm, and so forth. All redolent of absent bodies, these computer-plotted items were, as ever with Reus, formed of materials alien to their nature IRL. The bipartite “Sentinels,” on the other hand, were more guts than bones, each featuring a slack length of embroidered cotton webbing reminiscent of a dormant fire hose. Hugging the gallery walls close to the entranceways over which they notionally stood guard, each sported a small plaque depicting a different matchbox design, sans text.

While such binaries abound in Reus’s exhibitions, the off-kilter rhythms of her sculptural aggregations ensure that they never appear unduly schematic. Rather than signaling an investment in notions of balance, dialectics, or mediation, each individual work is a unique emblem of profuse and protean industry. The dizzying variety of constituent materials (aluminum, steel, fiberglass, resin, cotton, felt, acrylic, and Jesmonite, among others) and fabrication processes (casting, milling, weaving, engraving, and so on) Reus uses to generate any given sculpture has often been noted. After all, the practical dynamics of “difference and repetition” in this era of mass customization are a world away from those conjured by Gilles Deleuze in his deliberations on the subject half a century ago. Arrested in time, isolated in space and unburdened by any inkling of utility, Reus’s mutant evocations of misplaced seating, open refrigerators, empty pots, futile locks, unoccupied saddles, disassembled vehicles, and detached hoses are surprisingly emblematic of their era. One of the most illuminating aspects of her work is nevertheless the oddly disquieting prospect it presents of exquisite and unbridled productivity.

Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith