We Went to Hauser & Wirth

by Paddy Johnson Corinna Kirsch Andrew Wagner on July 2, 2014 Reviews


Letha Wilson’s “Kanab Concrete Tondo (Fold)”. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Fixed Variable
Hauser & Wirth
511 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
Runs through July 25, 2014
What’s on view: Emerging photographers interested in exploring the relationship between the photograph and the object. Many of these artists are associated with the Lower East Side gallery scene.

Curated by Gallery Associates Yuta Nakajima and Madeline Warren. Artists include: Lucas Blalock, Ethan Greenbaum, John Houck, Matt Keegan, Josh Kolbo, Kate Steciw, Chris Wiley and Letha Wilson.

Paddy: It wasn’t more than three years ago, that an art consultant told me there was very little abstract photography floating around. If that was true then, it certainly isn’t now. In fact, for those of us who have been following the New York emerging art scene this might even seem old hat by now. This is a show of work so formally lush, it’s almost pornographic. This goes a far way with me, even if the results of “exploring the relationship between the photograph and the object” can be a little circular.


Josh Kolbo’s “Untitled”. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

The biggest piece in this show is its centerpiece. Josh Kolbo’s double sided c-print is divided into four quadrants on the front, each with photographs of pringles flying out of the can. He’s gently folded the bottom sides of the paper together to create a soft scoop that seems to mimic the can and on the underside we see what that shape might have held in another context; a number 3 pool ball. So we have photographic representation of a space, the representation used as a material for modeling a new space, and photographic representation of an object that looks like like it could be used in the space. It’s a clever visual puzzle.

Also clever: the curators decision to include Letha Wilson’s floor sculpture, which is a flat piece of steel with a corner curled up, as if it were paper. There’s a real play between this fold and the Kolbos which is very satisfying. In Wilson’s case, the underside of her piece reveals a c-print replicating what looks like skin or a subtle gradient of some kind.

For what it’s worth, I think Letha Wilson’s folded sunset photograph, which is transformed into something resembling mounted blinds and then cemented over is one of the strongest works in the show. I mean, she chose to cover a view of a sunset up with cement! There’s no ambiguity in that gesture.

Andrew: To me, Kate Steciw’s sculptures were some of the most engaging in the show. She titles them “Compositions” but that seems to undercut them as simply formalist explorations. Her works take digital collages of stock photos and then places them in geometric frames, before adding other sculptural elements. One sat flat on the ground atop four wheels, with a hole cut through it. The other hung high above, a metal chain dangling beneath it. Together, they had the look of utilitarian objects gone wrong. I wanted to figure out how to use them, what their functions might be. They felt like toys and factory devices all at once.

Paddy: I guess. I mean, this stuff is better than the wall mounted work which I’ve always felt was a little clunky, but is it really better now that it reads like a Das Institute work? They all love acetate. Anyway, these works may be more formally resolved but they now feel derivative.

Corinna: It is easy to see this show as derivative, but I think that’s just because we’ve seen a lot of this work before—just not at Hauser & Wirth. That said, I haven’t seen much in the way of large-scale work, like Josh Kolbo’s, here in New York. Probably because they’re showing in smaller galleries? Even the space Hauser & Wirth gave over to this show isn’t much; in comparison to the Sterling Ruby show, it feels like a broom closet.


Lucas Blalock’s “Cactus Action”. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

Andrew: I’m wondering how this show might have fared with a little more breathing room. All of the works
were so on top of each other that pieces started to get lost. Lucas Blalock’s work especially, which felt like the least engaging pieces in the room. If you spent time with the images, they would slowly unfold as visual puzzles, and all the subtle Photoshopping and manipulations he used become apparent. But the images themselves—a cactus and a brick wall—are static, especially next to some of the more visually exciting works in the room. Blalock’s work is best when the digital manipulations take over the image and push it into frenetic compositions. These images in comparison felt tame, the Photoshopping too subtle and tempered.

Paddy: Yeah, those Blalock’s pieces are really disappointing. I kept wondering why he even bothered Photoshopping the piece, if that manipulation was the most exciting thing he could produce. Luckily, those works were the only low point in an otherwise strong show.



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