March 28 - April 27, 2013
Curated by Samuel Draxler
Cleaning Up brings together works by artists who critically intervene in or annotate their source material to produce clarity, sterility, or order. Ranging from sculpture and painting to photography and installation, the works on display engage with categorization and classification as functions of power that construct distinctions between the ordered and the errant. The exhibition offers an analytic perspective on today’s artistic practices that draw from the legacies of Conceptual Art and Institutional Critique.
Through an engagement with architecture of the gallery space, several of the artists shown continue an interrogation of the art institution’s conventions. Cristóbal Lehyt’s wall drawing is executed by a third-party, who also determines the size and location. Lehyt’s original figure drawing becomes a form of graffiti in which the white wall of the gallery, now the literal support, is marred by the artwork. In the photographs by Cecilia Szalkowicz, the functions of framing and display become central. For example, Szalkowicz references an architectural hole, a framed space, and the viewer’s relationship with the image. In another piece, a flat black plane obscures part of the image, embodying the ways in which pictorialization and representation can function as forms of repression. Michelle Lopez’s sculpture, by replacing rigid artifice with organic surrender, undermines the normalized conventions and connotations of Minimalist sculpture. Lopez employs the materials of a skateboard at the scale of a human body.
Lia Chaia’s installation comprises flag-like sheets that hang from the ceiling and display sections of the human skeleton. In segmenting and separating the components of the body, the work is among those that deal with the ordering within and of persons. Known for her unique synthesis of disparate networks, Jorinde Voigt collapses both objective and subjective elements into quantifiable forces whose interplay can be calculated. In the collage on display, Voigt excerpts images from erotic Chinese paintings. Through the transposition of bodies, Voigt turns the fluidity of sexuality into an ordered spread. Claire Fontaine, as a collective artist who operates under the pronoun "she," adopts the harmless female persona embraced by corporate bureaucracy. Fontaine reproduces a PowerPoint-style pie chart that identifies emotional intelligence, the ability to deal appropriately with human irrationality, as the main determinant of success.
A third body of work addresses intellectual management – the way in which social systems and language are manipulated and mobilized. In the drawings by Alfredo Jaar, the artist produces an image of Antonio Gramsci over and over, systematically attempting to represent all of the nuances of his vision. The work is thus an act of devotion to Jaar’s intellectual idol, but also a manifestation of the power enforced through cultural uniformity described by Gramsci. In another work, Jaar conceals an image of Karl Marx’s grave in an envelope that the purchaser agrees to view only once a year, on the anniversary of the day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. The signboard by Bethan Huws – a similar type to those used by schools, offices, and churches – concerns the power of language. In its declaration that “words are equally ready-mades,” the piece evokes Duchamp’s famous declaration that “Since the tubes of paint used by an artist are manufactured and readymade products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are 'ready-mades aided' and also works of assemblage.” Huws positions speech as an act of inventive play, a system whose limits are constantly expanding.