This two-person exhibition at BISCHOFF/WEISS compares Sara MacKillop and Erica Baum's individual processes of selecting, collecting and editing and highlights the ways in which these processes separate the formal attributes of objects from their use or meaning. Running along several parallel lines of enquiry, the work of both artists forces the de-contextualisation and abstraction of familiar objects such as library cards, books, stationery, display paper and jigsaws.
Interspersing two series of Baum's work, Card Catalogue series and The Naked Eye series with several works of MacKillop, the exhibition also engages with a shared interest in redundant systems. Whilst resisting any sense of nostalgia Baum and MacKillop both utilise recently obsolete materials and point to the potential humour and bathos found in their appropriation.
In the first room, Erica Baum's Card Catalogue series seeks out relationships between words and names filed in alphabetical order. The scanned and enlarged images of, now obsolete, library index cards focus in on unexpected linguistic connections, humorous or absurd juxtapositions:- in one work 'fat', 'fasts' and 'feast' fall next to one another, in another 'subversive activities' follows 'suburban homes' - so that the landscape of the image reveals hidden poetry, fictional fragments and rhythmical coincidences running through the reference cards.
As a series, the Card Catalogue works fuse the methodology of documentary photography with found and concrete poetry. These playful works take unrelated but familiar words and overlay their meaning with one another - creating a found poetry that highlights the meaning of the individual words, bringing out a new subliminal narrative.
Throughout this room, Sara MacKillop is presenting a group of works developed from office stationery and filing systems. A hanging filing system is opened out and displayed as a wall-hanging; a new work, a series of luggage tags, hangs across the window of the gallery; an expanding file is propped, upwards against a wall, its concertina sides made vertical and rigid. A framed image is at first difficult to understand. Close inspection reveals it to be a scan of Post-It note block from an old stationery catalogue. Printed on cheap thin paper, the faint image of an old chair advertised on the other page comes through - a ghostly presence in the grainy image.
Displayed on the floor, in the corner, up high - utilizing peripheral and overlooked spaces - MacKillop's interventions both with the image and in the space highlight the materiality of these once-useful products - her slight gestures and subtle plays scramble objects' meaning, obscuring their function and rendering them inutile three-dimensional sculptural objects. The work's economy is underscored by a keen appreciation of space and formal detail, a light but not simple touch that involves a silent re-arranging and abstraction of the fabric of the everyday from its context.
In the back room, Baum's The Naked Eye series captures cross-sections of fanned-out paperbacks. The books, mainly non-fiction biographies from the 1960's and 1970's, have yellowing pages, colour-dyed edges and cheap black and white photographic inserts. The books are photographed head on - opened out and flattened, the object of the book is collapsed and turned into an abstract collage. Rich hues of rust, saffron yellow and celeste page-edges vertically dissect glimpsed images and unreadable text.
The Naked Eye works enact a double abstraction - visual and conceptual. Thus, as the images and print of the original books are obscured, so too are their subjects. Biographies of forgotten or obscure celebrities, old gangsters and politicians, have been rendered unreadable and the viewer can only guess at the stories, figures, narratives contained within.
Opposite The Naked Eye series, and likewise found objects, MacKillop's Faded Paper are large pieces of sugar-paper that had a previous life as display backing paper. The backing paper is beautifully and simply re-presented by MacKillop without any display so that we can see the imprint of the sun around old displays. A series of ephemeral photograms, negatives which further develop through the course of the exhibition, each of the papers can only be displayed once as they change and fade further during the course of the exhibition. The works hang from the wall onto the floor, falling and curling into sculptures; the elegant display highlights the work's fragility and materiality, its hiding and revealing. Thus the works become events, part of a scene staged by MacKillop, paper carefully unrolled and reversed, a movement inverted, a previous life hidden.
The juxtaposition of these works at BISCHOFF/WEISS presents the artists' work as a comparative removal of distance, both with a wry humour and fondness for the discarded and neglected. Where Baum starts with the verbal, seeking out relationships between words and names, or teases us with pages we cannot see, and MacKillop begins with the objects and modifies their significance in space, both artists enact a play of perspective and positioning that emphasises an object's material nature twinned with its significance, then renders it unfamiliar and re-codes it. In both cases subversion of the object leads to the fragmented and ambiguous possibility of new narratives.
Erica Baum (b. 1961, New York City) lives and works in New York. She received a B.A. in anthropology from Barnard College and an M.F.A. in Photography from the Yale School of Art in 1994. Forthcoming exhibitions include; 30 Sao Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Solo exhibitions include; Circuit, Lausanne, Switzerland (2011), Bureau, New York (2011), Luttgenmeijer, Berlin (2009), D'Amelio Terras, New York (2004). Group exhibitions include; The Proposition, New York (2011), Mitchell Innes & Nash, New York (2010), Luttgenmeijer, Berlin (2010), Malmo Konstmuseum, Malmo, Sweden (2008), D'Amelio Terras, New York (2006). Publications include, Vitamin Ph- New Perspectives in Photography, edited by TJ Demos, Phaidon Press, 2006, 'Sightings', One Star Press 2011, 'The Naked Eye', with Kenneth Goldsmith, Free Association 2009 and 'Bbabaubaumbaudevin', a 2-artist book with Francis Baudevin, 2011, 'Dog Ear', 2011, With Kenneth Goldsmith and Beatrice Gross, Ugly Duckling Presse.
Sara MacKillop (b. 1973) lives and works in London. She graduated in 2001 with an MA from The Royal College of Art, London. Solo exhibitions include; Spike Island, Bristol (2011), White Columns, New York (2011), Furnished Space, London (2010), Dundee Contemporary Art (2010) Salle de Bains, Lyon (2010), Leicester City Art Gallery (2008), International Project Space, Bourneville Centre for Visual Arts, Birmingham (2008), Jessica Bradley Art and Projects, Toronto (2007). Group exhibitions include; Concrete, Hayward Gallery, London (2011), Ancient and Modern, London (2011), BISCHOFF/WEISS, London (2011), 401 Contemporary, London (2010), David Risley (2009), Serpentine Gallery (2009), Limoncello, London (2009), Dicksmith, London (2009), MOT, London (2009).