A Spaghetti Dress for World Peace at Park View

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The varied forces composing A Spaghetti Dress for World Peace dovetail in a refreshing, intimate press release penned by its curator, Paul Soto, owner of Park View. The show’s invisible but omnipresent muse is Miguel Adrover, an ingenious turn-of-the-millennium fashion designer whose professional downfall was due, in part, to his inability – or unwillingness – to properly navigate the “noise” of financial, social, and political interests. In his text Soto relates the adverse effect that similar noise has recently had on his own art and life. He also concedes that art objects simultaneously perform philosophical and commercial roles, and are, as such, conflicted.

Correspondingly, many of the works here merge unrelated or incongruous elements, none more germanely than an untitled jacket by fashion house Gypsy Sport (2017). Casually hung in the gallery’s closet, the work is an amalgam of upcycled black mesh, oxblood nylon and common grey sweatshirt material. Nearby, Victoria Colmegna’s volubly titled wall vitrine* overlaps adroit sketches and an exquisitely rendered graphite and pastel self-portrait. Similarly synthesized are Dena Yago’s site-specific vinyl text works (REGRESSERGNI, INGRESSERGE, and EGRESSERGER, all 2017). Installed atop three of the space’s doorway arches, these word collisions enact a heightened self-awareness while traversing Soto’s apartment-cum-gallery. While additional contributions by Catharine Czudej, Dardan Zhegrova, Paul Heyer, Heji Shin, and Sam Grossinger echo these notions of fused imbalance, the diverging media and varying execution of the remaining works deliberately rattle this continuity.

Comprising 26 works by an array of 16 contributors, A Spaghetti Dress for World Peace often dips into cacophony, burying decipherable resolution within its myriad folds. Ultimately, though, this decidedly discordant operation mirrors the chaos-induced sentiment of Soto’s relatable words, leaving the feeling that an easily consumable and cohesive exhibition was never really the point here. Unlike Adrover’s clothes, Soto’s exhibition achieves a liberated and reflexive dialogue about the collective “noise” we must acknowledge, both within and outside the realm of art.

*Victoria Colmegna, #229. Super Senior Series: Schiller Schuller in Floral Selfhood Valley, 2015; #62: Who´s Who?: Will the real Jessica please stand up?, 1990; #35.Out of Control: Will Aaron Dallas destroy Elizabeth’s and Jeffrey’s happiness?, 1987; #66. Who´s to Blame?: Elizabeth is running away!, 1990; #41.Outcast: Will anyone speak to Molly Hecht again?, 1987; #17.Boys against Girls: Elizabeth and Jessica team up to fight there worse enemy, Boys!, 1988 (2016). Pastel, graphite, and pen on velvet and paper (commissioned portrait and original sketches by Jimmy Mathewuse, illustrator of the “Sweet Valley High book” series book covers); glass, steel, and PVC vitrine with lock-and-key, 26.38 × 35.75 × 3.75 inches.

A Spaghetti Dress for World Peace runs September 2–October 21, 2017 at Park View (836 S Park View St #8, Los Angeles, CA 90057).

Image courtesy of the artist and Park View. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Blackout at Ibid

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Blackout, the three person exhibition currently on view at Ibid Gallery, is an exercise in imagistic complication. While these artists—Richard Hamilton, Carlo Mollino, and John Stezaker—have only minor overlaps as cultural and philosophical practitioners, the exhibition tugs at the common, if sometimes tenuous, threads in their work.

The show’s title dually refers to media suppression and memory failure. Though, largely dispensing with these literal definitions of the term, Blackout instead refers to obfuscations at play in each photographically-informed work; every artist can be seen here as a maverick interrupter of image legibility. This conceit is best seen in Stezaker’s collages Double Shadow LV (2015) and Shades (2016). Both consist of an upside-down image onto which a silhouetted photograph has been superimposed—a terse gesture whose use of the figure/ground relationship all but collapses it.

A painted city skyline occupying the gallery walls grafts a notion of architectural facade onto the show but undermines the interiority found in many of the works themselves. Richard Hamilton’s Italian Baroque Interior(1979), for example, is a collage wherein photographic and painterly representations of interior architecture converse and coalesce into a luminous, amber-hued whole. This emphasis of domesticity is echoed by the work of architect Carlo Mollino, whose inclusions, somewhat ironically, are not images of his angular buildings, but rather are portraits of women posing in various states of undress.

Seemingly the show’s outlier, Mollino’s images initially appear as the result of straightforward fashion shoots, yet the relationship between maker and model is anything but easy to parse. Indeed, the inability to easily unpack Mollino’s photographs, along with the associative collages of Stezaker and Hamilton, leaves a residue that is as vague as it is specific, as seductive as it is cerebral. Like desperately trying to recall a memory after a blackout.

Image: John Stezaker, Shades (2016). Collage, 9 1/4 x 11 5/8 inches (unframed). Image courtesy the artist and The Approach.

Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, June 21, 2017

Dianna Molzan at Kristina Kite

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Despite their spatial tendencies, the ten contributions in Dianna Molzan’s solo exhibition at Kristina Kite Gallery are securely anchored within the language of painting. While maintaining this medium-specific position, Molzan employs a flirtatious relationship with sculpture as a filter through which she can extract painterly potential, ensuring its dimensional aspects never stray too far beyond the canvas.

Such enterprise is most evident in a trio of totemic, vaguely cruciform works (Untitled, all 2017) installed on the main gallery’s west wall. Each is comprised of a monochromatic vertical substrate on top of which a gesturally painted pillow-like form rests, making for dramatic interplay between two opposing surfaces. Corporeally suggestive, each protruding “face” intently meets the viewer’s gaze.

Bulbousness is an oft-repeated motif in Usurpico, making appearances in all but three of its works. For instance, Untitled (2017), is painting at its most straightforward—oil on canvas—yet here morphs itself into a wooden frame supporting two green and lavender pillows onto which vibrant, magnetizing compositions have been brushed. Balanced, clean, frivolous, awkward, confrontational, and utterly accessible, this work, like its companions, manages tremendous potency with the simplest of materials.

Molzan’s simultaneous dedication to painting and seizure upon external material and conceptual realms makes for open ended resolution. As such, each painting exudes a sense of conflict—a comfortable unease with being at odds with itself. This is not to say that these works suffer from any lack of intellectual framework, skillful execution, or status as discrete objects—quite the opposite. Usurpico commands viewers to engage with its expansions and contractions, imbrications and dualities, and ultimately, with the very activity of painting itself.

Image:  Dianna Molzan, Untitled (2017). Oil on canvas with poplar. 30 x 35 x 7 inches. Image courtesy Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, May 25, 2017

@richardhawkins01

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“I no longer considered objects from the point of view of their usual purpose but rather from that of friendly anxiety they offered me.”

– Jean Genet (1)

On March 2, 2017, Snap Inc., parent company of the image-messaging application Snapchat, went public and experienced an unprecedented first day market capitalization of $28.4 billion. (2) While some of the frenzy soon fizzled, Snap’s upshot evaluation serves as a reminder of society’s current obsession with social media. Snapchat stands apart from other apps in that it allows its users to share images and videos that self-delete, providing them with a liberated—and in some cases, delusional—sense that what is being transmitted is impermanent and untraceable after having been consumed. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the reasons for Snapchat’s ascent was its capability of transmitting nude selfies and other explicit material “free” from the policing and supposed permanence of other platforms.

Instagram, unlike its ephemeral competitor, is a supremely visual library, in which every post is catalogued along with its relevant comments and likes. As such, it demands that a fabricated persona surround each user, with each post adding to the patina of his or her particular brand of cyber-personality. More specifically, such a trove of sustained visibility enables artists to navigate Instagram’s decidedly image-centric universe, with certain artists employing the app as a legitimate extension of their studio practice. Indeed, the uses and abuses of lasting social media have been explored by all manner of artists, not least of which by Los Angeles-based artist Richard Hawkins.

Materially and conceptually, Hawkins is a collagist. Though he often ventures into painting and sculpture, his practice is foundationally collage-based: an organization of surfaces via the layering of disparate imagery as a means of creating a synthesized and outlined whole. The driving force behind such activity can be described as the aura of mediation. The spirit that mediated imagery emanates—its inherent pull, its production of desire, the unattainable ideal it often evokes—is perfectly suited to the channel of collage, as the coalescing of such imagery forges “an undeniable experience of syntax.”(3)

Richard Hawkins’s idiosyncratic and direct approach to collage is refreshing in its simplicity: a cleanly trimmed pic of David Bowie taped to a reproduction of Francis Bacon’s Two Seated Figures (1979); an image of a Japanese male model tacked onto an inked abstraction; cut-outs of Greek and Roman sculptures that reside alongside the artist’s Romanesque lettering. Such succinct yet fleshed-out relationships translate seamlessly to Instagram, wherein their imagistic strata can be constructed not only statically but also animatedly via gifs and videos. Beginning in 2015, Hawkins regularly produced Instagram work under the handle @richardhawkins01. On January 3, 2017, after reaching 137,000 followers, his page caught the attention of the app, and was abruptly deleted.(4)

Hawkins had knowingly (if not stridently) been pushing the boundaries of Instagram’s guidelines for indecency, as his posts almost exclusively incorporated images of virile (frequently nude and less often, aroused) young men, many of them self-promoting social media narcissists. A typical @richardhawkins01 contribution employed similar techniques of layering and superimposition evident in Hawkins’s physical collages. For instance, 2016-05-02 20.57.36 (5) features a shirtless man angling for a selfie surrounded by four Nick Jonas gifs with the word “moist” spelled out in rotating green capitals at the bottom (a spilling white liquid also makes a cameo). Though this relatively straightforward composition echoes the artist’s physical collages RRSPS and SJJSS (both 1993), most entries employed a more intense chromatic bravado coupled with a saturated use of web linguistics such as gifs, emojis, and stickers whose animated and obfuscating tendencies maintained the artist’s penchant for giving and withholding at once.

In his catalogue essay contribution to Hawkins’ 2010 traveling retrospective, Third Mind, art historian and critic George Baker states, “The primary act of collage, for Hawkins, is one of occlusion—covering something up, laying something over, the superimposition of parts and pieces onto a readymade ground, indeed, the translation or transposition of one ground, one image, or one surface into another.” (6)

If such obstruction in Hawkins’ studio work is a twinned source of syntactic image generation and desire production, it is doubly so in his Instagram output, in which animation plays a key role. Take 2015-12-02 05.29.32, in which a white rabbit jackhammers its head against the groin of a tattooed dude, whose semi-erect penis is revealed only when the rabbit rocks its head back in preparation for another blow. Similarly executed is 2015-12-01 15.15.51, which makes use of a muscled bro from thebananablog.com who is not indecent until the Akita concealing his junk winks and slides out of frame only to reappear a second later. (Similar to how dissecting a joke drains it of humor, detailing these posts belies their rampant LOL hilarity.)

Here Hawkins is disrupting the source imagery’s original erotic intent while retaining their apparent provocative qualities. It seems at times the artist genuinely lusts after these men while in others he overtly ridicules them, making it unclear if he wants to humiliate or fellate them—or both. This mirrors the multivalent effect of mediated desire—a distanced yet spectacularized hybrid of magnetism and frustration. As writer Bruce Hainley posits, “Hawkins has come to refer to this coexistence as ‘syncretism,’ which he defines as ‘an attempt to reconcile disparate and even opposing beliefs and attributes of previously separate gods or practices into one, both existing simultaneously.’” (7) This ambiguity, this performance of two tasks at once is a thread throughout Hawkins’s work. Indeed, the title of his 2007 retrospective at de Appel in Amsterdam was Of two minds, simultaneously.

With all the potentials such technology affords an artist, it’s worth pausing to focus on an aspect of Hawkins’s relationship to Instagram that fundamentally sets him apart from another artist, Richard Prince, whose use of the platform has raised many an eyebrow. Prince, for his part, monetized his account by taking screenshots of other user’s pages and then had them printed on canvas. Despite being squarely within the artist’s signature appropriative methodology, Prince’s social media appropriations were fabricated solely for circulation within the art market as luxury good signifiers of his participation within contemporary culture.

Conversely, Hawkins’s artwork was the medium of Instagram itself, and therefore a reflection upon of the very conditions of its own making—the only manner in which one could “acquire” the work was within the confines of a screen. A Prince-style commodification of social media was apparently never Hawkins’s goal, but rather Instagram served as just one of the many outlets the artist has employed to further his career-spanning investigation of mediation. Whether worked through collage, ceramics, painting, or social media, all mediums are equally privileged within the network that is Hawkins’s art; it is the forum of eventual consumption that dictates in what manner his work should be manifested.

Even after realizing @richardhawkins01 was blocked, I foolishly continued to check Instagram to see if the account had somehow been reinstated. Like bygone Snapchat posts, Hawkins’s catalogue had left the realm of tangible experience to enter into the ether of memory. Though each and every one of his works is stored on some server somewhere in the world, their current inaccessibility suggests the ephemerality of the internet; it is more like a pencil than a pen.

Hawkins recently launched another Instagram handle, @richardhawkins02. Interspersed between new and old erotic collages are quick snapshots of his cats, a couple awkward selfies and suggestive imagery framed with texts on current gay rights abuses. In all, its tenor has some of its predecessor’s flair, though it’s quite clear that the objective is not at all the same. When asked if he ever thought of trying to get the original reinstated, Hawkins simply replied, “Rather than fighting to get it back I’m enjoying the idea that it’s just a used-to-be.” (8)

NOTES

1 Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal (New York: The Grove Press, 1964), p. 127.

2 Caitlin Huston, “Snap IPO: Six things to know about Snapchat parent company as it goes public,” MarketWatch.com, Mar 3, 2017. Link: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/snap-ipo-six-things-we-now-know-about-snapchat-parent-company-2017-02-02

3 Rosalind Krauss, “Rauschenberg and the Materialized Image,” October Files: Robert Rauschenberg (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002), p. 40. Originally published in Artforum, December 1974.

4 Richard Hawkins, e-mail message to the author, March 29, 2017

5 Due to the original posts’ lack of proper titles, the author and the artist agreed they would here be referred to here by their file names as kept in the artist’s digital archive.

6 George Baker, “Viva Hate,” Richard Hawkins: Third Mind (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2010), p. 45.

7 Bruce Hainley, “Slowly (2nd Draft),” Of two minds, simultaneously (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König,) 2009, p. 17.

8 Richard Hawkins, e-mail message to the author, January 27, 2017

Top Image: Richard Hawkins/@richardhawkins01 Instagram post dated May 2, 2016. Bottom Image: Richard Hawkins/@richardhawkins01 Instagram post dated December 2, 2015. Images courtesy the artist.

Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, Issue 8 (May 2017)

Olga Balema at Hannah Hoffman

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The press release for “On The Brink Of My Sexy Apocalypse”, Olga Balema’s sensuous Los Angeles gallery debut, offers little more than an anecdotal excerpt from Jean Genet’s novel Our Lady of The Flowers (1943). While this sliver of the author’s gorgeous prose beguilingly portends the artist’s preoccupation with fluidity, the show’s title is more telling. Given the importance of liminal ruminations to Balema’s practice, it is fitting that notions of porousness and entropy fluctuate throughout her environmental installation.

Central to this trifurcated exhibition is a large room, its flooring covered with pale green linoleum, displaying several low-lying sculptures, including four mattress-like, PVC bags filled with water in which sundry items of steel, fabric, and paper are hermetically sealed. These works set in motion a course of invisible yet inevitable decay. It’s hard not to consider them as bodies; their internalized systems enacting digestion, absorption, and decomposition. Nestled nearby within a larger Day-Glo installation is the uncanny A thing filled with evil streams (2016), an oblong wooden block apparently supporting a partial ribcage replete with vertebrae. A battery-operated cell phone motor vibrates within a niche in the sculpture’s thorax, as if it were on life support.

The accompanying spaces further this current of corporeal allusion through several loose sculptures comprised of fabric, latex, and steel. These skeletal works exude a poetic force more sensual than logical, though not without their own intelligences. Like all the other pieces in this materially thrilling installation, these works don’t so much occupy space as invade it, as a parasite might attach to a host. And what has penetrated a surface must ultimately affect its interior.

Image:  Olga Balema, On The Brink Of My Sexy Apocalypse (Installation view)             Image courtesy of the artist and Hannah Hoffman.

Originally published by Flash Art, Vol. 49, No. 314 (May 2017), pp. 94-95.

Revalue, Reanimate, And Recirculate: Interview with Cooper Jacoby

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THOMAS DUNCAN: Though your work finds form in a wide variety of ways and continues to evolve, the notion of circulation is evident throughout. More specifically, you allude to systems of circulation and their potential for disruption or blockage: from acupuncture flow charts to drainage systems to bee pollination to the postal system.

COOPER JACOBY: You could say that choke points and clogs are where systems cease to be ambient. The fatigue between input and output, or the waste that escapes its joints, can contour the exchanges, scripts, connections, and scale of apparatuses that typically recede beneath attention. To detect leaks in engine systems—such as a car’s A/C system— manufacturers will inject a liquid dye into the part and then watch for this penetrant to bleed through all the hairline cracks, condense around the pinhole perforations, and pool in blocked valves. I try to approach other systems, other black boxes, in a way like this, looking for the traces of where they strain, what they leak, where they drain.

TD: Your work is dedicated to material as much as it is to concept. Do you set out to find new materials to explore, or do they come to you through your research?

CJ: Most of my focus in materials comes laterally, in non-sequitur ways. It gets redirected by applications, bizarre sub-industries, or histories totally askew of what initially guided my interest. Deliberately or not, a lot of attention is spent tracing how materials categorized as “waste” orbit through after-markets that revalue, reanimate, and recirculate them back as inputs. In following these streams from liquidation back to exchange, a sort of narrative streak becomes intelligible. One material that I’ve incorporated and tracked like this is Fordite—it’s essentially industrial waste made ornamental and wearable. It’s the sedimentary aggregate of layers of excess paint that would encrust on auto assembly lines and equipment when parts were sprayed by hand. After this process became automated and residue-free, many of the people who saved this material (mostly sub-contracted industrial janitors) auctioned it on e-commerce sites, where it’s then shaped into jewelry. Given the rarity of this pseudo-mineral, the speculative price for a limited resource has surged. It finds its way back upstream.

TD: Upcycled.

CJ: Sure. Where an upcycling, cottage industry polishes foul slag into a collector’s item, converting shit into gold.

TD: Further to that notion of materials, do they always harbor particular significations or are they materials that just speak to you? Like the potential toxicity of lead, for example, that you employed in your solo show, Deposit, at High Art in Paris.

CJ: I don’t typically think in those distinctions, but hopefully these two registers—reference and materiality—remain inextricably knotted in the work rather than easily parsed. Materials can be employed as relics, dramatized as raw evidence, somehow more immediate than representation. Or they can be retailed by their technique, like a trade fair demo, where it’s all about an evaporating novelty of, “Look what we can cut, look what we can print!” Often these treatments present objects that are far less potent than their actual counterparts, desaturated by being filtered through art. In the work you mentioned, lead isn’t exemplary as much as it is contradictory. Its total impenetrability against vision, its use as a barrier to the toxic light of radiation, is set against images of total porosity, the deep machinic gaze of X-rays encased within the damaged mailboxes. Consider how its surface slowly leaches a carcinogenic oxide, yet it’s a preventive, medical cladding. In this way, lead upends the polar terms of a “benign” or “toxic” material. These categories for diagnosing the material become even murkier, given the fact that what appears to be the “animate” subject—the living tissue in the dead hardware of the mailboxes—is in fact X-rays of an autopsied mummy.

TD: You mean that the imagery that appeared in those works, of the bones, was actually an x-ray of a mummy?

CJ: Yes. So the figure becomes invested with a sort of vitality as an image, yet it is un-exhumable, fully entombed. When learning that early X-ray technologies were calibrated on plundered mummy bodies, which could essentially be scorched in experiments without impunity, I began to consider how biological life could undergo a sort of reanimating phase change, from historically dead to visibly alive, from tissue to image, and the slippery idea of what’s the “living” substrate here.

TD: I find this relationship between the biological and the man-made a particularly engaging aspect of your work. Can you talk a bit about your more recent work, which is modeled on urban beehives? There’s an intriguing combination of sustainability and control in those works, one that will potentially be further explored and complicated in your upcoming solo show here in L.A.

CJ: Those works stem from an urban beehive prototype that the company Phillips designed as part of a “microbial home,” a luxury domestic ecosystem where the functions of the home are supported by appliances that run on symbiotic “natural processes.” In the original beehives, bees ostensibly fly into a biomorphic glass dome, wherein the apartment inhabitants can watch and eventually harvest the honey that the colony produces. Taking the shape of the optimized honeycomb membrane, I’ve remolded this cavity with scrap materials that have undergone transformations or several states, akin to how pollen is imported, digested, and regurgitated into the architecture of the hive. What’s harvested here is not honey but aluminum. The work composites the hive together as an exquisite corpse of this single material: bonding recycled aluminum foam, casts of hives in impure aluminum, and hexagonal heat sinks. Hopefully, the closed-loop bubble and design fantasy of the Phillips prototype gets somewhat contaminated by substituting the regurgitation of one resource with another.

TD: The systems you explore in your work are ubiquitous (the body, postal networks, doors, electricity). In essence, they offer a nonexclusive entry point into an intellectualized output—anyone seeing your work will already be aware of these systems, even if only superficially, but your work upends them, inverting or subverting them for its own purposes. Specifically, I’m thinking about the disruption of the electrical system in your past show at Kunsthalle Baden-Baden and Deposit at High Art, as well as the flooring context in Stagnants at Mathew.

CJ: The world’s hardware tends to obscure the many frictions that are internal to it. Exerting pressure on these interfaces is a way to raise the vein, so to say, on these sheathed, repeated processes. With both of the works you cited, the space’s infrastructure is stressed into visibility by rerouting different forms of circulation within them. In the case of the lights, it’s altering the input of current to the light fixtures so that the waste mercury calcified at the ends of expired fluorescent bulbs is overheated, glowing again like candles. In the case of the grating, it was approaching the exhibition as a sort of sieve over which people traverse, filtering human traffic as a passing material. Both induce a purgatorial state—either a stuttering between function and failure, or a precarious levitation where one is neither quite fully within nor outside.

TD: Moreover, you work from series to series and do not resuscitate bodies of work; you have a discrete working method, which results in a cohesive yet impermanent output. Is this because each exhibition calls for its own conditions that need not be replicated once staged? And further to that, do you feel the steel grate flooring in Stagnants that we were just talking about—which also appeared in your Frieze NY solo presentation—are two parts of the same output?

CJ: I wouldn’t say that I periodize my work with a sharp cut or approach it through the exhibition form alone, but restlessly shed and shift parts of work before they congeal into a modular template. Maybe because much of my focus is oriented towards how certain materials are digested, I often cannibalize my own bodies of work. Both the mailbox and gutter works are structured around how a diagram of a single anatomical figure—the acupuncture meridian system—extends through infrastructures that process remote inflows and outflows. To your other question, the floor that was originally in the Stagnants show was first used to compress an already small, open-sided space into an image, appearing continuous with its outside since the grating extended from the window to the back. When I found out that the foundations of most art fairs are built from the same type of grated steel platforms, I wanted to double this substructure back onto itself, making the suspension of the fair redundant and nude. By total happenstance, the substrate of the works on the wall—a high-performance paper honeycomb used as a filler in vehicles—uncannily resembled the cheap honeycomb cardboard cores of the fair walls.

TD: Right, art fair walls also employ an interior hexagonal structure, like the kind you find in doors.

CJ: Exactly. So the work created a type of skinned twin of the architecture, like a second glove in a pair, pulled inside out.

Cooper Jacoby (1989, Princeton, NJ) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Recent solo shows include Bait at Freedman Fitzpatrick in Los Angeles (2017), Stagnants at Mathew in Berlin (2016), DEPOSIT at High Art in Paris (2015), and White Flag Projects in Saint Louis, MO (2014).

Image: Stagnants (installation view), Mathew Gallery, Berlin (2016)
Courtesy of the artist and Mathew Gallery, Berlin/New York

Originally published by Mousse, April 10, 2017

Chadwick Rantanen at team (bungalow)

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When taking in the work of Chadwick Rantanen, death doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet, its currents ripple throughout Alarmer, the artist’s current solo at team (bungalow). Housed within the show are deer and duck decoys as well as fly and rat traps—items designed to facilitate the demise of living beings through attractive, and deceptive, strategies. In reality, though, Rantanen is less concerned with the end of life than in the deceitfulness and potentiality inherent to such objects.

Comprised of just six works that make shrewd use of team’s interior and exterior settings, Alarmer is by turns a continuation and a departure for Rantanen. Works such as Triple Play Motion Doves and Crow Spread (all works 2017) exemplify tactics of intervention and restructuring that have been central to the artist’s practice. These sculptures incorporate bird decoys whose battery components were retrofitted to accept Rantanen-designed adaptors, enabling AAA batteries to operate instead of AAs—an action that frustrates and ultimately deteriorates their intended functionality. To keep them active, the artist’s winged adaptors will need to be replaced by gallery staff and, eventually, their owners—making clear that for Rantanen, his art is not only the interrupted object set adrift, but also the temporal and quasi-site specific activity that it facilitates.

Unlike the artist’s manipulation of mass-produced objects, works such as Hanging Strips (Yellow) and Admitting (Green) are entirely of his own design. A multi-part flytrap and an oversize rat trap, respectively, they offer an abject take on objectified duplicity, even if their hardened glue is incapable of ensnaring vermin. Admitting (Green), the show’s most dissonant and engaging work, commingles allusions to a rat trap and a hospital admitting room, allowing that we are all subjects of deceit as much as we are perpetrators of it. Despite such caustic allusions, moralizing is not the takeaway from Alarmer, but rather it’s that Rantanen’s art renders unseen systems visible, highlighting that potential can be seized even in the most familiar of places.

Image:  Chadwick Rantanen, Alarmer (Installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and team (gallery, inc.).

Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, March 30, 2017