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Alexandre Singh
Jack Hanley Gallery - SF
395 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94103
November 1, 2008 - November 29, 2008


The Solitary Orange
by Andy Ritchie


Sigh. MUNI, I suffer your maze only to find another warren forged at Jack Hanley Gallery. Consider this one entirely more gratifying. Initially daunting (as MUNI to an Oaklander), Alexandre Singh’s Assembly Instructions exhibit makes mind maps with servings of both resolutions and loose ends, like a good poker game. What appears to be first a hundred or so individual works, then one single work, eventually reveals four distinct networks, or maybe functions. Their diagrammatic nature had me drawing notes instead of writing them—a little frustrating considering my job of translating images to words. I’d be much more comfortable with a laser pointer and a neglected copy of Powerpoint—maybe next time.

No question, I was a little apprehensive starting the clockwise read from the letter Aleph (Hebrew A); initial indications of a linear, predictable slog around three white walls balled up, then dissipated. Whew. How quickly this could’ve gone wrong—cue the Gilligan’s Island theme: “A three wall tour.” I’ve worshipped, circumambulated at the art stupa before, slavishly toeing through the ponderous quest of one artist’s “answers.” This isn’t that. Quickly the Aleph evolves into an opium-infused San Francisco, wavering between “Reality” and “Unreality” with psychotropic abandon—or as much as black-and-white collage will allow. A combination of magical, exotic, and biographical details is culled from sources as broad as Google Maps (Street View!) and the New York Public Library archives. The artist impresses his personality vitally through curt photo manipulations and an irreverent bent. His plays on causation and logic allow for wiggle room and entertainment. In this space, Singh posits that the crumbling of a house of cards only gives an answer to “How high can we build?”  He seems more interested in the captive magic of the still-building. Yet, the artist notes, the evidence of a pyramid’s trunk will determine its apex. These observations joust everywhere, regularly deviating brusquely into the perverse. The Aleph, before you know it, will terminate at the unlikely Omega known as the “solitary orange.” And visually tethered to the orange? A definition of the color orange described, textually, in black and white.

Singh’s technique shows that collage doesn’t always seek to create a new-from-old transformation simply by default fish-out-of-water association. He orchestrates relationships and uses text with a light touch, like a classic 8-bit video game. He even employs minibosses—to extend this metaphor further—waypoints defined by variations on “association/causation.” You’ll see. He makes a great case for creative reuse. Why mine for gold elsewhere when you can leech out the remains with acid? In this case, however, no acid is necessary: just an acid tongue. The white-framed works here are no more than bare-bones black and white printouts, augmented with Wite-Out fluid and tape. Small, stenciled circles, dots really, are evenly drawn on the gallery walls and filled in, strictly snapped in 45° and 90° formations. The clean regularity manifests a manic Pac-Man board and effectively sutures everything together. This perpetual ellipsis is, however tenuous, a truly necessary visual suggestion. Reading the whole exhibit is a protean experience of the cognitive mind.

And it goes far beyond the solitary orange. Singh’s hilariously droll take on Catholic hierarchy is the most visually visceral element in the show, conclusively demonstrating that God resides in the loins of an ass. (Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!) Showing a range of approaches, Singh documents his flight anxiety in personal and playful tones with heavy doses of “emotional pornography,” which is not what it sounds like. His unique source imagery is the antithesis of the Cover Girl gloss ads and newspaper headlines and celebrity mugshots, too often wont to surface in collage. Singh forgoes the loaded, heavy-handed dredge and overwhelms with complexity and, paradoxically, restraint. Although his aesthetic is associative with an academic mode of Bauhaus sophistication and high foreheads, Singh’s work is loose and lean. Limited means seem a calculated control on the artist’s part; Matthew Barney would be proud. I’ll be interested to see how Singh’s tune changes as he ages. I’ll bet it’s “…” on his way to the next node.

--Andy Ritchie

(*Images, from top to bottom:  Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions, November 1 - 29, 2008; Jack Hanley Gallery, Assembly Instructions (Vectors of Confession) (detail), 2008, xerox collage, 17 pieces, dimensions variable, photo courtesy Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.  Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions, November 1 - 29, 2008; Jack Hanley Gallery, installation view, photo courtesy Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.  Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions, November 1 - 29, 2008; Jack Hanley Gallery, Assembly Instructions (Tangential Magick), 2008, xerox collage, 16 pieces, dimensions variable, photo courtesy Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.  Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions, November 1 - 29, 2008; Jack Hanley Gallery, Assembly Instructions (Tangential Logic) (detail), 2008, xerox collage, 73 pieces, dimensions variable, photo courtesy Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.  Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions, November 1 - 29, 2008; Jack Hanley Gallery, Assembly Instructions (Emotional Pornography) (detail), 2008, xerox collage, 12 pieces, dimensions variable, photo courtesy Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.  Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions, November 1 - 29, 2008; Jack Hanley Gallery, Assembly Instructions (Vectors of Confession) (detail), 2008, xerox collage, 17 pieces, dimensions variable, photo courtesy Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.)



Posted by Andy Ritchie on 11/17/08 | tags: installation collage

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