"In this world where every object was thrown away at the slightest sign of breakage or aging, at the first dent or stain, and replaced with a new and perfect substitute, there was just one false note, one shadow: the moon. It wandered through the sky naked, corroded, and gray, more and more alien to the world down here, a hangover from a way of being that was now outdated," Italo Calvino wrote in "Daughters of the Moon," a short story originally published in 1968 and reprinted in 2009 in The New Yorker. This passage was the starting point for "Recurrence," a thoughtful group exhibition curated by Luisa Aguilar Solis and Georgia Horn at Fridman Gallery that considered cycles of consumption and obsolescence.
[Image: Edgar Arceneaux, A Four Dimensional City Casts a Two Thousand Mile Shadow. Two Wedges and Two Long Shadows, 2014, acrylic, chalk pastel, vinyl, and enamel on paper 23.50 x 29.50 inches.]
Ariana Papademetropoulos, Ancestor, 84 x 60 inches.
Although Calvino's story was written 46 years ago, before our society had become so beguiled by disposability, the curators suggest that the story anticipated the complex relationship between newness and nostalgia prevalent today. The pieces selected for the show convey a sense of yearning that we associate with nostalgia, yet they are firmly rooted in the present. Each piece repurposes old materials or tropes from art history, updating them to suit a contemporary aesthetic.
Ariana Papademetropoulos's brightly-colored Ancestor (pictured above) at first glance looks like an oil painting of an interior that has had paint thinner poured on top of it. In fact, it's a photo-realist painting of an image taken from a 1970s interior design publication that has a water stain on it. Meticulously painted, the stain recalls the experimentation and sensuality of Color Field artists like Helen Frankenthaler as well as the psychedelic imagery of the post-Vietnam era.
Colter Jacobson's window installation comprises old album sleeves, news clippings, and handmade drawings. The sleeves are faded and worn, their circular cut outs serving both as frames for the clippings and drawings and as peepholes into and out of the space.
Lauren Fensterstock, Claude Glass (Cube 1 and 2), 2014, mixed media, 36 x 36 x 36 inches.
Fensterstock, detail, look down through the glass on the top of the cube.
Lauren Fensterstock contributes two 36-inch black cubes that reference Minimalist structures. Inside, beneath a glass top, dark leafy plant forms seem to fill the hollow cube, like sickly plants growing in a dark, dank world. Or perhaps dead plants trapped under black ice.
Nick McPhail’s small-scale paintings (three pictured above), installed as a group along the back wall, utilize tropes from 1970s hard-edge abstraction. The hand-drawn line, brushy paint-handling, and careless masking are decidedly less rigorous (and more human) than the images they reiterate.
Edgar Arceneaux's collection of mixed-media paintings on paper (image at top) imagine Michael Heizer's large-scale sculptures in new dystopic circumstances, sinking into the landscape like ruins from a previous epoch. Branded "Detroit Steel," the series suggests a sci-fi graphic novel, speaking poignantly of economic disaster in past, present and future.
This fine show raises the question of what future artists might dust off and bring forward from our time, but it's hard to pinpoint what we are contributing because, as "Recurrence" points out, we're so keenly focused on re-using imagery from art history. Perhaps more than specific pictures or structures the elements that will endure will be our preoccupation with process, love of research, and the easy access to information that all the tools of the IT revolution have made possible. We are the first generation of Google artists. Any thoughts?
"Recurrence: Edgar Arceneaux, Lauren Fensterstock, Nick McPhail, Colter Jacobsen and Ariana Papademetropoulos," curated by Luisa Aguilar Solis and Georgia Horn. Fridman Gallery, Soho, New York, NY. Through August 15, 2014. To download the exhibition catalogue, click here.
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