It’s Elemental: Circuitboards, Canvases, Chalkboards, Corrosion

Sam Lewitt
Sam Lewitt


Sam Lewitt
Sam Lewitt

More art, of course. I’ll start with Sam Lewitt’s “Casual Encounters” at Miguel Abreau. Lewitt’s work has long explored the materiality of texts and information and the apparatae used to produce them. In his “Weak Local Lineaments,” as the gallery explains, he uses the floorplan of 88 Eldridge as a “diagram of circulation” that’s based on an algorithm, commonly used in architectural design, first-person shooter games, and emergency management, to enhance spatial logistics. Here, his diagram plots a path of “optimal viewpoints into the gallery’s every room.” Those diagrams are crudely milled, using a CNC router, from plastic-backed copper sheets commonly used — so I’m told — in flexible electronic manufacturing. The materiality of the objects, and the imperfection of their making, thus render them less-than-optimal devices of communication.

Meanwhile, his “Screen Test Lineaments” on the walls consist of “panels of acid etched point grids derived from LED backlighting arrays.” Wow — that makes my head hurt. What he seems to be doing here is “freezing” and thereby corrupting the process by which LED displays are manufactured; so these substrates meant for a condition of continual “refreshing” — continual and variable streams of light — are fixed into a state of permanent corrosion. Maybe.




At the gallery’s other location, 36 Orchard, Lewitt’s “Stored Value Field Separators” are totemic sculptures composed of magnet platters extracted from hard drives at e-waste processing facilities. Interspersed among these magnets are “stored value cards” — store loyalty cards — whose magnetic strips are rendered illegible in this charged environment.




I couldn’t help but notice that Miguel Abreu has All The Right Books — i.e., plenty of Laruelle! — in the libraries at both of its galleries. Ah, the Philosophical-Aesthetic Industrial Complex!

Also exploring the material substrates for communication, El Anatsui’s “Trains of Thought,” at Jack Shainman, incorporates bottle caps, wire, and printing plates into tapestry-texts.

El Anatsui, Trains of Thought
El Anatsui, Trains of Thought



And continuing the theme is Addie Wagenknecht, whose “Shellshock” at Bitforms features “action paintings” made by small drone aircraft and two pieces from her “Data and Dragons” series,” which “intercepts and logs anonymous live data captured from surrounding WiFi signals,” thus transforming the cloud and its surveillance into both sculpture and performance: monolithic objects and blinking spectacles.

Addie Wagenknecht
Addie Wagenknecht


Returning to a more primitive — though no less material — form of communication, Michael Scoggins, in his “if you can’t say something nice…” at Freight + Volume, uses oversized sheets of lined composition paper and chalkboards as substrates for self-therapy: confessions and revelations, pleas to an anonymous other, stabs at self-motivation, moments of self-aggrandizement, and plenty of revisions of the self-narrative, as evidenced through the palimpsestic nature of many of these texts.








John Henderson work
John Henderson

John Henderson is similarly concerned with material substrates: his aptly named “A Revision” at Galerie Perrotin features paintings in his “Proof” series, which he constructs by using sizing to adhere canvas to his studio walls, then ripping the canvas — and, along with it, patches of paint — from the wall. He then magnifies the canvas pattern and prints that image on polyester. Thus, the pieces on display are a trompe-l’oeil print of the original canvas-and-paint object. In another series, “Proof,” Henderson takes his own gestural paintings and, through “electrotyping,” transforms them into cast-metal. Painting becomes sculpture.

GEP_John Henderson_2

I also saw Sean Landers’s “North American Mammals” at Petzel, which featured three sets of paintings — all of which investigate how text relates to image. My favorites were, not surprisingly, the library images, which feature shelves of books whose titles can be read, Nina Katchadourian-style, as narratives — stories represented allegorically by an animal, embodied here on the bookshelves by a figure encased in a crystal ball or snow globe. Those allegorical tales include: Mountain Goat (An Argument for Solipsism), Boar (Brueghel the Archer), Howler Monkey (Casting it Back Out to Sea), Hare (The Promiscuity of Art), Jaguar (The Urgent Necessity of Narcissism for the Artistic Mind), and Pony (When Performance Becomes Reality).

Sean Landers
Sean Landers





John Baldessari has been working in this aesthetically self-referential text-image terrain for years. His “Movie Scripts/ Art” at Marian Goodman pair excerpts from, well, movie scripts — both found and fabricated — with zoomed-in extracts from art-historical images drawn from the collection of the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. High art meets Hollywood: we’ve seen it before, but Baldessari always keeps it cheeky.

John Baldessari
John Baldessari



After that, I thoroughly enjoyed Abelardo Morell’s photos at Edwynn Houk. Morell has been experimenting for years with the camera obscura, which recontextualizes — interiorizes — external scenes; while his still-life images crop everyday objects from their contexts, calling into question their scale and often highlighting their architectonic qualities: stacks of paper become architectural columns, for instance.


Abelardo Morell
Abelardo Morell



What else? Some Jasper Johns sculptures at Craig F. Starr, some Urs Fischer paintings at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and, at Studio Vendome, Nelson Saiers’s mathematical diagrams and illustrations of scientific theories.

Urs Fisher
Urs Fisher
Nelson Saiers
Nelson Saiers


Offering more musings on materiality and architectonics is Thomas Houseago’s “Moun Room” at Hauser & Wirth. The visitor navigates through nested chambers composed of roughly-cast plaster and re-bar, and perforated with apertures resembling various phases of the moon. We peer through those openings to see others navigating through the space. The rudimentary construction and sightlines put on display the ways in which constructed spaces frame our circulation and perception.




Similarly elemental is Walter de Maria’s work, on display at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue gallery (Gagosian is managing the late artist’s estate). A piece from his “Equal Area Series” features a large stainless-steel circle and square, each occupying the same area; this work is presented in a room where we can also hear his Cricket Music and Ocean Music compositions. Also on display is the Large Rod Series: Pedestal Rods 5, 7, 9, 11, 13: five gleaming solid stainless steel rods (a gallerino was polishing them while I was there), “ranging from 5 to 13 sides, placed atop individual pedestals and spaced two meters apart.” At one end of the room we can also see his The Pure Polygon Series series of elemental geometric drawings, and at the other end — as the rods increase in their multifacetedness, we behold his There exists in the Universe more than One Billion Galaxies, suggesting that this elemental geometry constitutes the foundation for infinite complexity.

Walter De Maria
Walter De Maria


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