Art Fag City at The L Magazine: Looking at Labor

by Art Fag City on February 2, 2010 The L Magazine


Fia Backström, Recycle (Hanging proposal for sculpture by Kelley Walker), 2007, Plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, trays and cutting boards in plastic, silkscreen on paper napkins,silkscreen on cotton towels and cotton fabric, glass pitcher and glasses, plasticine, and Kelley Walker, Untitled, 2004, 95 x 59 x 93 inches. Image: Marina Galperina

My latest review is up at The L Magazine. This week I discuss “Vertically Integrated Manufacturing” at Murray Guy. The teaser below:

Are the standards for labeling exhibitions as “outstanding” slipping? I asked myself this question at Murray Guy this weekend visiting the gallery’s “Vertically Integrated Manufacturing” for a second time. Several people had told me it was worth seeing and while they weren’t wrong, the work is far too inconsistent to compile a “good” show. With few strong inclusions, the exhibition has a tidy show concept and a few star artists names going for it, more than it does quality.

Taking its title from a term describing companies handling both the production and sale of their products, the artists in “Vertically Integrated Manufacturing” explore labor as it relates to studio practice. The practice isn’t new, and the exhibition rightly reflects this: The two galleries include a range of emerging to established artists. Among the more prominent and visually compelling works are a series of four black and white photographs of industrial buildings first printed in 1967 (reprinted in 2004/5) by Bernd and Hilla Becher, juxtaposed with 66-year-old Allan McCollum’s army of unique copper cookie cutters assembled on gridded table tops. The “mass-production” connection in the combination of work is about as obvious as can be made: its simplicity works well. As a brilliant matter of circumstance, the white frame of the photographs picks up on the white table borders, emphasizing each as a packaging for a product or its producer.

Set against these pieces is a series of elegantly designed starlit napkins arranged on triangular glass mounts and a book of unique poster backgrounds by DAS INSTITUT. The collaborative’s inclusion in the show is rationalized by their claim that they are an import-export business—one member creates paintings and the other prints them—a ridiculously inflated description of process, if ever I’ve heard one. Without the posturing, the sculptures function fine, so I hope the group gains the confidence to drop the gimmick. The book not only reads as less substantial, but also fell apart when I picked it up.

To read the full review, click here.

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