In support of ornament: New York’s Super Dutchess exalts in the impish tease of our infinite smallness with its God Is in the Details group show

, 13 April 2021

It’s hard to remember the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean, let alone the boil of darkness set upon the sinewy twists of Johnny Depp’s hand, if not for Francesca Facciola’s painting of a movie still, now on display at New York’s Super Dutchess. She’s the type where one might mistake the glib screengrab of Jabba the Hutt on her Instagram as documentation of faithful oil-on-canvas portraiture. The zeitgeist, under Facciola’s thumb, is subject to its own gleeful degeneracy.  An oeuvre highlight: her naughty face submerged sidelong in a Ziplock bag of Cheerios on a car passenger seat, which is inexplicably next to the barrel of a trombone proffered by a lunger with a Tabi hoof. A reformed trombonist may be biased in that piece’s favor, but for this miniature gallery in Chinatown, the single filibustering work of hers will do. ‘I Have Been “Sinking In” for Eight Years Now’ hangs ominously as part of God Is in the Details, running  March 27 to April 30.

God Is in the Details (2021). Exhibition detail. Courtesy Super Dutchess, New York.

Super Dutchess gives the impression of an upright suitcase: space exquisitely used, if cramped, necessarily. Instead of walking in, one peers, streetside, through the glass, and if they’re fortunate they’ll be joined by curator Reilly Davidson, who gamely offers show explainers. Yet even here there’s room to hide. Gallery founder Andrew Woolbright parts with Davidson to hang left from the storefront display through glass double doors, past kitchen store accoutrements to a rightward oblong slice of floor, a scant few feet wide, that will function, by summer, as a speakeasy. Hallelujah! For this city of shoeboxes in long-awaited rebound, nothing is overlooked.

If Facciola casts blockbuster-ish evil upon this white cube, Wretched Flowers’ ‘Rouge’, a cartoon bat taking near-center stage, is its rakish antihero. Like any girlboss worth her salt, she has multiple gigs—at once a government spy, an international jewel thief, and an occasional temptress to Sonic the Hedgehog. With April upon us, her turquoise and eggshell ensemble echoes a muted celebration of Easter: another godly detail. Her pupils, hexagonal steel nuts, look into a notional camera lens with main-character bravado. The text on each of her eyelids—‘SOFT’ and ‘MACHINE’—typify the dialectics of the 3D-printing medium, her anthropomorphic curves seared to life by code and instruments. Since the sculpture’s genesis in 2018, she’s amassed a dead arrangement of hairy fruits, prairie grass, and the exhibition’s most artificial hue: a corolla-shaped shock of neon-green bioplastic. She appears to have sidestepped the slinky waxed gate that hangs behind her, Yasmin Kaytmaz’s ‘Today as Yesterday’, for a morning forage, where I imagine she considered—like her anonymous co-creators—the parallels between pre-modern botany and reproductive rights. Or maybe she nicked them from the Rhizome benefit at Forlini’s.

God Is in the Details (2021). Exhibition detail. Courtesy Super Dutchess, New York.

Curated elsewhere, they could be arcadian, but amongst the fraternizing Disney and Sega properties, Will Sheldon’s landscape paintings are coaxed into mass-cultural conversation. Perhaps they predate an illicit trip by Harry Potter’s cohort to Hagrid’s hut at dusk, or are two Thomas Kinkade pastorals that God has forsaken. The show’s press release explains that Sheldon “paints, tattoos and draws houses… trees… babies”. For ‘House on Green Hill’ and ‘Trouble with Poe’, the artist has omitted the infants, depicting modest homes tucked into cradles of woodland, the trickle of roads blurred as if a snapshot of stream water. For this not-quite-diptych, he obscures detail with the gauze of a childhood memory and the linen he’s painted upon. It’s a hazy repose compared to Sheldon’s other pieces, which have far more spindles and curlicues. Davidson has his handiwork on her person: five tattoos in total, and she can’t help but divulge which are stick-and-poke cover-ups.

Last, and self-deprecatingly least, is Kautmaz’s scraggly gate, which hangs impotently in the posterior, and what a relief it is for any Democracy Now! listener to see a barrier rendered ineffectual. Many gates stress what’s behind them; this one charms in its own right, starting with its corn-syrup-y resin. A border, sugarcoated. A chain of honey curls hangs off an outstretched wire branch that threatens to prick Jack Sparrow’s palm. The curls would read as hoop earrings if not for those horseshoe divots, alluding to the horse-girl history she shares with the curator.

As Christina Perri’s Twilight movie soundtrack hit wails from a car cruising by at mid-afternoon leisure, Davidson recalls classical notions of finding the sublime in the smoothing of detail, and Naomi Schor’s feminist rebuttal in support of ornament. God Is in the Details settles somewhere in between. A pit of darkness, the fog of memory; each goad their audience to squint and strain as they peer closer. One might assume the exhibition title is an idiomatic inversion, with God replacing the devil, only to find that the Almighty has the original claim. Exaltation was here, amidst our silly references, matching our infinite smallness, all along. Even so, it’s the impish tease of undermining what’s expected that best explains the show. Enjoy, for a moment, believing the devil had arrived first.**

The God Is in the Details group exhibition, curated by Reilly Davidson, is on at New York’s Super Dutchess, running March 27 to April 30, 2021.