Its Endless Undoing
Thierry Goldberg Gallery is pleased to present "Its Endless Undoing," a group exhibition with works by Larry Bamburg, Sebastian Black, Richard Evans, Dominic Nurre, Martin Oppel, Jonathan Peck, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Lauren Seiden, Colin Snapp, and Cody Trepte.
The show takes its title from Cody Trepte’s series of the same name, which refers to the idea of representing absence. By way of reference, that which is disappearing, or has already disappeared, is made present. As a result, whether in idea or form, the line between “something” and “nothing” is blurred. The real, however fragile, becomes that which takes shape through its very undoing.
This sense of the subject of the work as being present without necessarily being made manifest in any single work is apparent in Cody Trepte’s piece on view, in which a ghostly outline of the phrase “Its Endless Undoing” hover over a fuzzy gray background. The artist initially cuts the text out of a photocopied sheet, only to repeatedly scan and reprint it until the extracted letters became visible again. To add another layer of printing artifact to the piece, Trepte half-toned and silkscreened the image so that the text (and the image) could further emerge (or reemerge).
In Sreshta Rit Premnath’s, “Zero Knot,” the idea that by pointing to what is missing, that which lacks arises within the work, is likewise investigated. Here, a statue on a pedestal is wrapped entirely in blue tarp, and, as such, is representative of some type of undisclosed monument, hauntingly ambiguous in its obfuscation. Like the mathematical zero knot, the piece acts as code or cipher, present in its concealment. The saluting gesture of the unrevealed figure emphasizes the spectral quality of the monument, while recalling political statues of leaders who are either about to be deposed, or have yet to be inaugurated. In this sense the piece presents that which might still emerge, or else is no longer existent—that which is, and is not, are both contained in the work, posing alternately as past artifact and future artifact.
Jonathan Peck’s installation, “Abject Biography,” displays a series of objects, which, when combined, play on the notion of portraiture. The title itself is a reference to the term “object biography” used in archaeology and anthropology to describe the process whereby the identity and function of objects are determined. Assembling items from the artist’s childhood that are personally significant—a cast iron piggy bank, a starter jacket, glasses, among other things—the selection operates as a self-portrait of sorts. Once transplanted and placed out of context, however, the relics are no longer recognized as such, and become anonymous. As such, portraiture is revealed as a series of signs (contained within this convergence of myriad “things”) mapping the unknowable. The real is presented as a kaleidoscope of various meanings composed of what is seen, unseen and un-seeable.
Though her exploration of the relationship between light and line, with attention to form, texture and surface, Lauren Seiden creates atmospheric work that posits itself within the realms of the ambiguous. "Other Spaces" 2012, deals with the essential elements of process and materiality, where layerings of graphite tests the conventions of drawing, pushing the parameters of the media through the physical transformation of the paper into metallic forms. The subtle but distinctive variations in each drawing are made through changes in applied pressure and speed. This rhythmic mark-making results in compositions of line whose subtle motion creates a tension that toys with the balance between control and chance. With a surface as absorbent and dark as it is reflective, the density of the graphite allows for a simultaneous diminution and deflection of light, so that the work continually pivots—a kind of stasis in motion.
Sebastian Black’s is another artist whose works exist within the liminal spaces of the ambiguous. His Period Pieces are made using sign painting materials: black and white enamel on hand engraved Dibond. Each piece is a painted facsimile of a collage made by altering Chartpak vinyl letterset sheets. The compositions resist categorization either as pure form or textual inscription. Beneath the enamel there is an aluminum support layer that has been scored to suggest the residual imprint of a vinyl lettering press. The spectral letters of this sub-layer are prearranged by Chartpak to maximize efficiency of space upon the 6"x10" format of their product. It is a readymade composition of permanent-like markings that follows the logic of "bang for your buck,” a literal economy of forms. Through the arrangement of shape, and the categorical uncertainty of those shapes, each painting becomes a continual palimpsest upon whose surface the very possibility of meaning is simultaneously inscribed and erased.
Dominic Nurre’s “Untitled ("Model To Elicit Action") is a hinged gate-like structure that swings in and out of the entrance to the gallery’s main space. However minimally, the sculpture functions as a gate that people have to push aside or maneuver in order to enter the back of the gallery (when pushed forward, it also frames the front desk). As such, the sculpture interferes with the flow of space and the freedom of motion—blocking or impeding movement, and at the same time forcing or directing the viewer’s (or the gallery sitter’s) movements. The other sculpture “Untitled,” a thin rod and tube of copper and aluminum that extend from the pillar at the back of the gallery to one of the walls, also transects the space at about eye level, and requires them to maneuver themselves in relation to the work by ducking under it in order to move past it. Both works ask viewers to actively commit or participate in the work, while simultaneously rending the viewer passive by impeding movement/action and forcing physicality, all of which directly implicate them in the "success" of the work.
The fragility of the work, and its equally fragile relationship to the viewer is apparent in Matin Oppel's floor sculpture here on display, which utilizes two shades of sand in a pattern of squares to depict an IKEA-like rug design. The viewer, in some cases, is invited to walk on the rug, therefore destroying it, or else asked to abstain from touching it (as with most art). In either case, tension is built by the work’s frangibility and vulnerability. Its possible “undoing,” at least in its original pattern and form (the signature and product of the artist’s hand) is always pointed to. A stranger’s interaction with (and distortion of) the work is a sign of its ultimate precariousness. Thus, Oppel raises questions regarding the value of objects (whether mass produced or unique) and their subjective impermanence.
Larry Bamburg’s bone stack sculpture (as part of a larger series) is an investigation into the fundamental nature of sculpture. This particular work is comprised of different bones from a range of species in a variety of sizes that the artist amassed and then reassembled, inserting one bone from each species into another to create a singular spire—a corrupted infinite column of sorts. The variety of species insures that with enough trial and error, a certain bone from a certain species of a certain age will eventually fit into another. The decorative sconce that materializes from this endeavor embodies a specific kind of developing expertise of the animal world, one that favors accessibility over treatment, density and diameter over sustainability and value. Since a bone’s morphology, strength, density, absorbency and color all take turns providing the directive for a fairly straightforward, matter-of- fact act of engineering—the sculptures are a simple test of what is possible. As such, by creating “unnatural” replicas of what has been already been deconstructed (in this case by nature), the artist builds “impossible” structures out of the dismantled, discarded, and disseminated.
Colin Snapp’s “Barclays, 2012,” derived from his video footage “Leica Toll,” is part of a new body of work shot during the artist's recent travels in southern Morocco. The still here on display is a close up of the hands of a man, otherwise anonymous, ashing his cigarette into an ashcan. Blurred due to the fact that the hands are in motion, the image is all the more obscured by the darkness of what seems to be an urban night scene, with external light sources reflecting vibrant emeralds and magentas. The visual limitedness of the close-up emphasizes all that which has been excluded. Viewers are not getting the “big picture,” quite literally, and are made aware of the information they are deprived of—a information that might help them more readily glean the contents of, and thereby more fully identify, the image. In this sense, the artist’s interest in the theme of tourism is made evident: just as the photographer, as tourist, is denied full access to the landscape and its inhabitants, so too is the viewer. Thus, the image functions as a kind of field recording that is all but a fragment, highlighting the instance of collision between the observer and the strictures of seeing and knowing. It is subjectivity of the artist that both restricts and enables access to the real.