Similar to Abstract Derive at Ludlow 38, Vernacular of Violence is a group show that uses one artist’s work as a provocation. In this case, it is conversations with the artist Lisa Kirk and her work, whose interdisciplinary practice investigates the aestheticization of formerly radical political signifiers. For Vernacular of Violence, violence in our everyday lives – as it is embedded in the cultural fabric around us – becomes the source material to investigate mutability in the context of visual culture
Kirk’s works in the show include her untitled paintings, square canvases of linen with aggressive splatterings whose shapes and forms gesture towards blood or gun shots, but in actuality consists of make-up. The pieces, a continuation of her work that formally investigates the concept of terrorism as a kind of luxury item, are a bold but simple statement that takes a small jab at the spectacle of both capitalism and violence. Her third work in the show is a delicate laser etching on goat skin in a small, thin, wooden frame. The image is hard to read – it’s a small person in a costume that resembles the Klu Klux Klan – but like her other paintings, they transform the sign of the form something uncomfortably aesthetic.
The other standout work is Rita Sobral Campos’ C-prints from her the headless plot series. These framed images consist of a complex geometric shape in various forms of unfolding and folding, along with text that describes a fragmented, surreal story that deals with missing heads from public statues. The story is presented as a police report in the choppy language of investigation, language that points to its conventions while also suggesting something more poetic about headless statues and state violence. One image states, “According to preliminary accounts by the ministry of the interior, the severed statues’ heads have been seen converging towards subways entries and rolling down the platforms and onto the multiple underground levels until finally disappearing from sight. Details are still scarce but we will keep reporting as the events unfold.” Campos’ project uses as its historical and conceptual reference "La Revue Acéphale" ("The Headless Review"), a 1937 Surrealist publication by Georges Bataille, Pierre Klossowski, André Masson, Jean Rollin and Jean Wahl. The journal was the esoteric manifestation of Bataille’s secret society 'Acéphale.' While the details of their activities remain somewhat unknown, the cover of their first issue shows a decapitated version of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” with his groin covered by a skull. Campos’ use of Bataille is a provocative use of fiction with history, a quietly funny, yet radical suggestion about the potentiality of a “severed head of state.”
Images: Rita Sobral Campos, DETAIL of x-ray of the plot (2010), from "the headless plot" series, C-print, 28 x 20 inches; Lisa Kirk, Untitled (2010), Make-up on linen, 16 x 16 inches. Courtesy Invisible Exports.