“Threads Left Dangling, Veiled in Ink”

Galerie Emanuel Layr | Vienna
Seilerstätte 2/26
September 15–November 4

Ellie Ga, Measuring the Circle, 2013–14, single-channel split-screen video, color, sound, 21 minutes 45 seconds.

This exhibition, curated by Béatrice Gross, assesses the relationship between text and image in contemporary art. The mysterious collective Slavs and Tatars’ Eurasian patterns, Ellie Ga’s video archaeology, Robert Stadler’s sculptural curiosities, and Erica Baum and Julien Bismuth’s photographs are just some of the works that come together to reflect multiple historical, cultural, and linguistic interactions untroubled by the pieces’ ineradicable traces of difference.

Slavs and Tatars’ four-piece fabric-and-paper series “The Inrising,” 2017, features glorious mythical phoenixes parading across bright abstract patterns. Gina Pane’s Souvenir enroulé d’un matin bleu (Rolled Memory of a Blue Morning), 1969, is a felt-shrouded wood-and-aluminum handle that hangs on the wall like a piece of somber gymnastics equipment. Dangling nearby is Stadler’s wood, foam, synthetic textile, and steel sculpture Pentaphone, 2006—a piece that falls somewhere between modernist lampshade and virtual-reality simulator. All these works defy the boundaries between art and design. Elsewhere, Baum’s photographic prints transform old newspaper clippings, collaging words and signs into conventional flower and landscape pictures, while Bismuth’s distorted photographs of a sun-beaten Amazonian home conceal hidden messages, embodying the difficulty of representation.

The centerpiece of the show, Ga’s magnificent single-channel video split across two screens, Measuring the Circle, 2013–14, reconstructs the history of a lost ancient wonder: the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria, destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages. Sifting through a labyrinthine array of sources, from shaky footage of the contemporary Egyptian city, antiquarian illustrations, and handmade transparent puzzles of archival documents, the artist searches for what the lighthouse once looked like. With each book, diagram, or story, the ever-receding horizon of truth eludes Ga’s grasp; like a relentless time-traveling detective, she scrambles through the rubble of Greek, Roman, and Ottoman Empires, the video a palimpsest etched on absent originals.

Max L. Feldman

Toni Schmale

Friedrichstraße 12
September 14–November 5

Toni Schmale, ach ach ach, 2017, concrete and steel, each 47 x 24 x 44".

At the end of a corridor, the work dipstation (all works 2017) provides the prelude to an exhibition in which today’s rituals around self-improvement take center stage. A slab of dark-gray concrete, mounted to the wall and sized to human scale, is juxtaposed with a black metal bar. No chin-ups are possible here, fat burning isn’t allowed, muscles can’t be trained—the equipment has been reduced to pure form.

The main section of the installation by Toni Schmale is further equipped with supposed tools of optimization: first there is ach ach ach, featuring stanchions on the left and right of each of the three pieces of concrete lying on the floor, together reminiscent of treadmills. The onomatopoetic title of the work plays on not only the rhythmic groaning of those using such machines but also the tripartite formation of the sculpture. Passing das management—a bar, padded with rubber foam, on a metal band, planted at the center of the exhibition—a visitor reaches hot hot hot. Here, there are three metal plates, hung on the wall like mirrors, that the artist has treated with heat in such a way that their surface structure, as well as their color, is altered. Yellowish, dark blue, and violet, the rectangles are iridescent in the cold lighting and offer a blazing counterpoint to this otherwise rigorously solemn show. Only one thing comes to mind: hot, hot, hot.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.

Franz Thalmair

Aurélien Froment

Museum Leuven
Leopold Vanderkelenstraat 28
June 11–November 5

View of “Aurélien Froment: Double Tales,” 2017. From left: Quodlibet II, 2017; Non alignés (Fatim Diop) (Non-Aligned [Fatim Diop]), 2016.

Aurélien Froment’s solo exhibition is titled “Double Tales,” which is certainly apropos to the duality on display across four large rooms in this newly refurbished museum. Quodlibet II, 2017, is a sculptural rendition of a musical medley that takes the form of reed instruments suspended from nylon thread. It is presented alongside Non alignés (Fatim Diop) (Non-Aligned [Fatim Diop]), 2016, and Chant du Monde (Song of the World), 2017, which are intimate video portraits of Senegalese singer Amadou Badiane inspired by Bollywood music and dance sequences.

These intersections demonstrate Froment’s capacity to approach his subjects from multiple unexpected vantage points. The series “Tombeau Idéal de Ferdinand Cheval” (The Ideal Funeral Monument of Ferdinand Cheval), 2014, is a photographic story of the lifework of a nineteenth-century postman who built the ideal tomb for himself and his wife, stone by stone. In the same room, and resonating on the other side of a partitioned wall and curtain, is the video Apocalypse, 2017, a meticulous examination of the imposing titular fourteenth-century tapestry at the Château d’Angers in France.

The artist’s latest work––installed in the last room of the show––stands alone and therefore offers an interesting speculation as to what direction the impressive multilayered incongruence of the artist’s practice can take. Allegro Largo Triste, 2017, is a video of a Sardinian musician and master launeddas player training his apprentices in an uninterrupted flow of music on a pastoral hillside. His style and instrument are so particular that there exists no system of tabulation for what he does, a feat not so dissimilar to the unique qualities of this artist’s own work.

Huib Haye Van Der Werf

Olga Chernysheva

Temnikova & Kasela Gallery
Lastekodu 1
August 24–October 28

Olga Chernysheva, untitled, 2011, barite analog print, 11 x 17''. From the series “Algunas Canciones Lindas” (Some Beautiful Songs), 1996–2014.

Russian photographer Olga Chernysheva’s latest exhibition consists of never-before-shown works spanning from 1996 to 2014. Also on view is the large-scale pigment print Before Closing, 2017, which was captured at Tallinn’s Central Market, a leftover relic from the Soviet era replete with mostly Russian vendors, allowing visitors to step back in time. Here, we see one of the shopkeepers, minus her head, unceremoniously dumping water from a bucket of flowers into a drain. Chernysheva, a Muscovite, was brought up in that world, and her eye seems to seek out those persistent remnants of the twentieth century that have become encoded with a sort of timelessness. In this sense, she is like a poet who shows us something unexpected by zeroing in on the mundane. There’s a skating ground near Red Square, wrapped in the pale non-light of winter (untitled, 2009); beyond its environs, the real subject is a certain bluishness that glows. You can almost hear the wind howling.

This Baudelairean, painter-of-modern-life stance persists when the artist turns to interiors. Two untitled black-and-white barite analog prints ostensibly portray the same living room; despite the date of each, 2011, the room’s décor appears to be a relic of Eastern Europe or Russia in the 1980s. The first image is simply the room itself, while the second pulls back, revealing an interior frame around the space, as if it were either a mirror reflection of the area or else a stage set.

Nearly all of these works are from a series called “Algunas Canciones Lindas” (Some Beautiful Songs), which itself sounds like it could be the title of a volume of poetry. Chernysheva’s songs are beautiful for reveling in the matter of their endurance.

Travis Jeppesen

Mika Tajima

ul. Wspólna 63
September 22–November 18

Mika Tajima, Force Touch (Manibus, 1), 2017, gold-chromed stainless steel spa jets, fans, MDF, 118 x 165 1/4 x 23 1/2".

Central to Mika Tajima’s current exhibition is Force Touch (Manibus, 1) (all works 2017), a large wall facing the gallery’s street entrance and blowing air from several gold-chromed stainless-steel spa jets. Although these allude to the meridian points of the human body, it is their alternating gushes of air—irresistible to some visitors’ hands—that suggest life energy, in remarkable contrast with the sterile coldness of the white surface. Pranayama, D, a wooden bust reminiscent of a cervical collar and dotted with Jacuzzi jets, stands on a pedestal nearby. The sculpture’s tactile qualities come from its material: smooth, polished wood. In these works, the limbs and idea of skin as surface—implied by the nozzles’ meridian lines—are trapped in the sculptures. A release of pressure is either exemplified by mechanical activation of the wall piece or simply suggested by the sculpture’s perforations.

Alongside these works, four of Tajima’s new additions to her ongoing series “Negative Entropy,” 2012–, render sounds into textile, as spectrograph images that record various sites of industrial production are expressed via a system of colors assigned to areas of jacquard wool. (Argraf, Rapida, Black, Double) and (Argraf, Rapida, Orange, Quad) were created from sonic capture of a book-printing plant in Warsaw that specializes in art publications, and (Digital Ocean NYC2 4U NAS Unit, Pink, Single) from that of a New York data center supporting the digital cloud.

Extending her interests in the mechanics of production and their effect on the human body, the gold, the spa jets, the pixelated textiles, and the wall—all signature elements of Tajima’s vocabulary—impose on the white cube’s stifling postindustrial aesthetic, leaving in their wake an awkward softness.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva

Christian García Bello

Galería Formato Cómodo
Calle Lope de Vega 5
September 14–November 11

Christian García Bello, Pretérito (Preterite), 2017, oil, graphite, and wax on paper, 5 1/2 x 7".

If Christian García Bello’s second show at this gallery seems to stage no major overhauls of his first, progress nonetheless lies within the reaffirmation of his perseverance. In this light, the exhibition represents a remarkable step forward in his still-young career. Titled, somewhat awkwardly, “Ahora no es pretérito todavía” (Now it is still not the past), the show reflects on how our relationship with time informs our perception of space. His drawings and sculptures share a precise blend of representation and abstraction, mathematical rhetoric and transcendent nebulousness, as he draws from rigorous classical humanism and from hazier Romantic movements in equal measure.

On entering the gallery, one easily detects the relevance of rhythm in his exquisite installation. It stems from a careful study of human proportions in the context of the gallery’s singular architecture. Drawing out our gaze, a vertical wooden form expands toward the wall, punctuated by both drawings and sculptures that share a distinctive ingredient: On all of them, thin layers of wax subtly accumulate to produce dense surfaces with an enthralling aura. They represent architectural motifs as well as shadows and hollow spaces, relentlessly swinging between the tangible and the ethereal. The three wooden sculptures on view are found objects that evolve into abstractions evoking a melancholic sense of longing, while unambiguously reflecting shapes and symbols drawn from traditional art of Galicia. Apathetic toward fuzzy trends and unnegotiably committed to austere formalism, García Bello understands his work as a body of complex textures providing a humble and serene take on the infinite.

Javier Hontoria