Malia Jensen at Cristin Tierney

image: Malia Jensen, Worth Your Salt, 2020. HD video. 6 hours. Courtesy the artist and Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York.

Nearer Nature

In the four-channel video from Malia Jensen’s current show at Cristin Tierney, a group of deer take turns to lick a white, egg-shaped object placed on top of a wooden pedestal. Upon closer inspection, the form of a head is recognized, resembling Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse. The head, we learn, is made of salt, and the deer are attracted to it for its mineral content, using it as a salt lick.

The footage in this six-hour video titled Worth Your Salt includes thousands of 30-second clips taken from trail cameras set up by Jensen across the state of Oregon. In it, deer and other wildlife are shown interacting with, or in the scenes surrounding her sculptures of carved salt. Other salt sculptures she placed outdoors include a hand (holding a plum), a foot, a chest, and a pile of donuts. Combined, they refer to parts of the human body: the head, the torso, the trunk, and the extremities.

Relinquishing control and allowing for disintegration by either animal or element, the objects in the video suggest a return to nature and the human figure offering itself back to the wild. In the gallery, the same forms are shown cast in translucent white glass, taking what became of the objects and preserving them as permanent memorials. This contrast between temporal, natural, and permanent—crossing over between video and object—gathers several ideas about the states of physical objects, being, life, and existence. Some humor, however, is also offered in the sculpture titled Donuts, referencing the anatomical stomach. It reminds us that joyfulness and play are equally important to our experience of nature and moments of time.

The show’s title, Nearer Nature, refers to a larger project of Jensen’s where Worth Your Salt counts as one of four site-oriented works. Among these, one involves natural clay deposits on the coast of Oregon that become affected by the rising tides. The same sense of Jensen’s poetic ingress into the natural world is suggested there. Here at the gallery, one is offered a product of this interaction first-hand.

February 5 – April 3, 2021
https://www.cristintierney.com/exhibitions/71/cover/

Brian Buckley at ClampArt

image: © Brian Buckley, “Thera, Santorini, Greece,” 2020. Wet photogram (Unique), 30 x 22 inches. Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

Uncertainty

Brian Buckley’s second solo show at the gallery presents more than a dozen framed images that pair cephalopodic forms with classical narratives and mythologies. These wet photograms are made by mixing solutions of light-sensitive chemicals and water-based paints and then placing objects on or near the prepared paper before exposing them to light. Due to their fluid quality, the images appear ghostly and watery—a quality most suitable for capturing images of creatures hailing from beneath the tides.

The octopi forms here are swirling, stretched, and streaming out like ribbons. Yet they appear like surrogates for the body as well. On one hand, their organic shapes might suggest entrails, but on the other, as the artist states in a video made in advance of the show, “…as humans, we believe we came from the water, we are water.” There is a sense of the image extending into the viewer’s realm of experience, of floating in the sea surrounding the subject, much in the same way one imagines each work being created.

For someone who spends time at sea (the artist is described in support materials as a sailor), oceanic and nautical themes appear to come naturally for Buckley. It’s present not only in the creatures he depicts but also in titles of work such as Thera, Santorini, Greece which references the Aegean island once destroyed by a volcanic explosion around 1600 B.C. It’s with this connotation of ancient tragedy that Buckley’s work receives consideration under another light.

Other works in the show referencing Aphrodite and the Count Ugolino of Pisa reveal sparks of inspiration coming from further myths and far-off places. These timeless stories, especially the tale of Ugolino and his sons’ somber fate evoke a mood surrounding the works that remain with the viewer. This, combined with the alchemy of the works’ material making, plus the creatures’ shadows, heighten a sense that could only be described as haunting. Yet as Buckley states, “the work is open to any interpretation. It asks for openness to the possibilities these images generate.”

January 7 – February 20, 2021
https://clampart.com/2020/11/uncertainty

Gordon Parks at Jack Shainman

This show, featuring the influential work of American photographer, film director, composer, and writer Gordon Parks, spans the gallery’s two locations on 20th and 24th street and highlights—in both intimate and exquisite form—the realities of the Black experience in America during the mid-to-late 20th century.

‘49.5’ at 601Artspace

The show’s title refers to the 2018 United Nations census—where almost fifty percent of the global population were counted as women. In criminal contrast, women still —baffingly— hold less than 24% of our national political offices worldwide. In an effort to turn the tide, artists and exhibition organizers Susan Hamburger and Jessica Hargreaves collaborated with 10 female artists to create an exhibition in the style of 18th-century salons presented in aristocratic, victorian settings—attempting to undermine the historical narrative and reset the record.

Joy Curtis at Klaus Von Nichtssagend

Curtis’ fourth solo show at Klaus Von Nichtssagend reveals an illuminating step forward for figural abstraction in sculpture. Freed from the typical constraints of the floor that standing sculpture deals with, the six works in this show display a proclivity for flowing forms that address the physical body through mastery of fabric.

TARWUK at Martos

Bijeg u noć

(Image courtesy of Martos, New York)

TARWUK is a two-person collaborative, described by curator Bob Nikas as having “four hands, one mind.” The show (whose title translates from Croatian as “Escape into the Night”) consists of several works on paper, paintings on canvas, and works on wood—in addition to sculptures both on the floor and tabletop. As a whole, it appears as a cosmology of objects, images, and aesthetic treatments evoking a mood of gothic entropy, illuminism, and panspychic purgatory. Figures made of resin clay and ephemera melt and dissolve, revealing frayed and detrital innards. The works on paper or canvas reveal a dark, subtle, and whispy religiosity akin to the Ars moriendi, while containing echoes of Klimt, Ernst, the tradition of the vanitas, and the illuminative work of Hilma af Klint.

The work titled MRTISKLAAAH_evsovtrm.Da.811 shows morphic apparitions appearing in a baroque scene accompanied with the words “PASSIVE VOWS DAUGHTER’S DRAGON SLEEP!” written at the bottom. The work brings to mind the arts of necromancy or summoning spirits frozen in the image of a still life. The sculpture KLOSKLAS_5T1||43r3 shows a beheaded figure with “BQE relics”, wires and parts trailing out of its neck. The figure stands with the same entropic appearance, with a small creature placed between the legs. The figure appears as female so perhaps it could be its offspring, yet the overall environment of the show conjures the idea of the homunculus such as seen in Goethe’s Faust.

As TARWUK cryptically replied in a conversation on TZVETNIK recently, “We can’t change the world and can’t escape it either, so we keep on digging deeper into the ground. Welcome to the tunnels made of flesh, where tall fires keep on burning and where the Tale is still very much alive. Where we are all both infants and the ancient.” The sentiment sums up the credo of this both macabre and illuminating show.

November 13, 2020 – January 9, 2021
http://www.martosgallery.com/bijeg-u-noc

Sean Townley at Kristina Kite

(image courtesy of Kristina Kite, LA)

‘Bad News from the Colonies’

Sean Townley’s show at Kristina Kite in Los Angeles presents a mystery for the viewer. Whether this mystery is solved, however, seems beside the point. In today’s media environment where immediate legibility (and insta-gratification) is taken for granted, the power of this work instead resides with the clues, details, and the overall picture the viewer takes in and deciphers. Two wooden wings flank an arrangement of sculptures, including a small, ornate antique-looking table with what could be a small ostrich skeleton placed on top, as well as what appears to be a celebrant’s chair (used by the priest or bishop in a church) encased in a plastic bubble pumped with gas. In another room, similar objects are placed on antique-looking plinths: a black staff mounted by a small globe and eagle wings, as well as the form of a black frock that could be worn by a judge or bishop.

On the walls are an ornately-carved wooden double-headed eagle (the heads are missing ) and a capsule-shaped object that looks like a “cryptex” from The Davinci Code. The “cryptex” offers the viewer a direction to settle in, as does an image from the J. Paul Getty Trust picturing an antique chair encased like the object in the main room. The show suggests a meditation on antique forms, classical zoology, objects of faith, and their preservation. It’s a cryptic message that acts as an invitation for the viewer to enter and explore.

October 27 – December 19, 2020
https://kristinakitegallery.la/