With Steciw’s showing in the Front space and Wilson showing in the Main space, the two exhibitions will run during the same time-frame and are part of Paris’ annual art fair Fiac.
Steciw’s practice explores the malleability of image culture, and the temporality inherent within it. Sculptural and photographic encounters are used to rephrase and repeat through collage and overlay. This exhibition in particular focuses on “the behaviour of images and how their state of contingency can be harnessed within the production of art.”
Wilson’s exhibition uses photographic prints, metals and concrete to explore the landscape of the American West, and the relationship between materials that are “grounded in their shared nature as substrates, surfaces and physical vestiges of actions.”
For an exhibition called Catfish, running at LA’s Anat Ebgi from September 11 to October 24,it’s only natural that deception would be a key component. Here, we’re met with the very literal definition of an internet catfish, someone who creates a false persona to be used on social media websites, in the fictional story at the beginning of the show’s press release. It tells of an online romance that wasn’t what it seemed. This narrative sets the stage for artists Petra Cortright, Kate Steciw, Letha Wilson and Margo Wolowiec to confront and explore the contemporary availability and ambiguity of the image in the visual internet age.
In the same way that a catfish might compile and re-organize common online imagery and data to create a fake identity, the four artists use this readily available content as primary material, taking it a step further into the realm of sculpture. All of them are working within tactile media and explore this convergence of digital and physical existence uniquely.
Cortrights’ pieces complement the works of the other artists and are spaced evenly throughout the show, almost pacing and propelling the viewer through the works. While the others explore the hands-on approach of shifting ethereal data into the physical world, the LA-based artist offers movement and a more concept-driven approach to the internet experience that is methodically more “hands-off”. With her video piece ‘mainbitch‘, (2012) placed precisely in the middle of the exhibition space, Cortright attempts to illustrate the inability of a visible woman on the internet to escape the male gaze. Further driving this point home, the video is displayed on an iPad with a front-facing camera, creating the meta experience of watching someone being watched while being watched yourself.
Steciw’s heavily gestural C-print, dibond, and wood framed sculptures exist on the wall as seen in ‘Composition 028e’ (2015) and as a free-standing wheeled piece entitled ‘Composition 028aaa’ (2015), asking the viewer to look at, around and through the multi-layered works. Utilizing run-of-the-mill stock photographs, she composes digital collages of different images of the same thing but then abstracts them to the point of unfamiliarity. This re-mixing of banal internet imagery is similarly explored by Wolowiec in her complex textile pieces. Using readily available Instagram content, which she gathers from the geotag feature of the image-sharing app, she digitally distorts the files into aesthetically pleasing composites that are then printed onto various fabrics which she ultimately hand-weaves together.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s concrete and unique C-print amalgams force photography from its familiar representational two-dimensional plane into a sculptural existence, where the landscapes that the photographs show are returned once more to their original state as three-dimensional locations. Fraught with imperfections and the unpredictable texture of drying concrete, specifically these imperfections create miniature caves and fault lines across the surface of ‘Joshua Tree Concrete Bend’ (2015). In ‘Kona Lava Black Slash (Steel)’ (2015) Wilson has cut a rectangular hole through the face of the work through which the gallery wall is visible, further adding another physical dimension to her photographs. These works accomplish their task of translating digital imagery into a tangible material.
The curatorial choices further enhance the show’s concept by mimicking the narrative in the beginning of the press release. We begin with a very formal and recognizable digital collage printed onto silk by Cortright. As we continue through the works of Steciw, Wolowiec and Wilson, formalities become skewed and abstracted. The exhibition ultimately ends on another of Cortright’s pieces which takes the form of a large digital painting printed onto anodized aluminum, book-ending it on an abstract note. The contrast between the beginning and end of the show leave the viewer to wonder, “where am I and how did I get here?” It leaves you hanging in the most sensible way possible, it is called Catfish after all. **
American-born, Paris-based Cruces takes up the Belgian gallery’s project room for Sift, his eleventh solo show, and gives little away as to its nature other than a press release that comes in the form of ten random T/F statements, presenting maybe-facts like “All water on Earth originated purely from comets. T/F” and “Frank Mars, who created the Snickers chocolate bar in 1930, named the candy after his favorite horse. T/F”. The last statement merely reads: “This statement is not true. T/F”.
In the gallery’s main room is the joint Soul Hackers show. Steciw has made regular use of stock photographers from ShutterStock since 2010, like her in joint show with de Joode at Neumeister Bar-Am (NBA), describing her fascination with “authorless” images, and with the notion of invisible aesthetic labour. Val Gesto, on the other hand, credits his inspiration to the DeviantArt aesthetic, to recreate the types of fan art and “meme-imagery” he found on image boards and forums.
London’s Rod Barton gallery is hosting the Got Tortilla with Butter on Phone. Think it’s the End? group exhibition, running from November 28 to January 17.
Curated by artist Mikkel Carl and featuring a dozen different artists, the show works to answer the “delicate, perhaps metaphorical question” recently posed by the one and only Cher on Twitter. The participating artists – which include Ivana Basic, Anna-Sophie Berger, and Kate Steciw – are all “what may or may not simply be referred to as ‘female’ artists”, but the exhibition itself goes deeper than simply and randomly collecting artists with the ‘right’ anatomy, as so many exhibitions do.
Instead, it serves as an analysis, teasing apart the term “female” from the “so-called feminine aesthetics” and “politicized feminist positions” and, through the employment of a post-internet reality, collapsing the dichotomies that structure culture at large. The fact that this female-only exhibition is intentionally curated by a male artist adds another layer to this exploration of gender and equality in culture and in art.
LA’s Aran Cravey gallery is hosting RHETORIC, a new four-artist group exhibition, running from November 15 to January 17.
Little promotional information is available for the exhibition, aside from the four artists featured in it. This, however, tells you something. With Kate Steciw, you might get stock image-inspired collages, like those we saw at her first solo German exhibition, Actife Plassity, at Neumeister Bar-Am (NBA) in Berlin. Alternately, with Martine Syms, a visitor might see multi-media poeticisms like those of her ‘Belief Strategy‘ series.
From May 2 – 4, all the nooks and crannies of Berlin were filled by 50 pop-up exhibitions as part of the annual Gallery Weekend Berlin, now in its 10th year. The celebrated contemporary art event, supported by prominent partners like Tate London and the Centre Pompidou Paris, consistently attracts collectors and patrons from across the world, with over a 1000 visitors rolling in this year for the short weekend programme. Hopping from gallery to picnic to gallery again, I spent that weekend roaming Berlin like a tourist, trying to find hidden gallery spaces tucked behind the greyscale walls of banal DDR-era buildings, and my favorite artists among them.
The moment we set foot into the Neumeister Bar-Am (NBA) gallery space, co-owned by Barak Bar-Am and Jean-Pierre Neumeister, we are greeted by associate director Ché Zara Blomfield who walks us through NYC-based artist Kate Steciw‘s newest (and first solo German) exhibition, Actife Plassity.
We walk the edges of the single exhibition room around walls strewn with flattened collage-style works sliced and sporadically fitted into structural shapes littering the floor. All the pieces are comprised of stock images, for example, five to be exact, which are duplicated and layered into a single Photoshop file and exported into the physical exhibition pieces shown in the gallery. The works on the wall appear swarming, the five stock images echoed repeatedly and layered over the smooth rounded lines of one another.
I immediately recoil, having always been taught to look for acute angles and generally more drawn to sharper geometric shapes, but there is something soothing and innocuous in Steciw’s work, like a blue popsicle on a hot summer night. The stock images dart on the canvas, the low hum of pop culture blended and bent into a singular piece that says everything and nothing at the same time.
When I ask about Steciw’s inspiration, Blomfield points me in the direction of The Overloaded Man, a short story J.G. Ballard in which the protagonist, suitably named Faulkner, narrows his perception of the world which in turn becomes nothing more than an array of abstract forms and colours. As Ballard writes:
“Gradually these too began to lose their meaning, the abstract masses of colour dissolving, drawing Faulkner after them into a world of pure psychic sensation, where blocks of ideation hung like magnetic fields in a cloud chamber.”
The death of affect, which forms the moral thread of Ballard’s tale, is how one feels walking through Steciw’s work. The bland, saccharine images of the stock archives compete weakly with one another, losing all representational meaning through their composition. At times, they disappear into each so completely that all one detects are the skeletons of patterns, infinitesimal fractions of the whole.
But once completely devoid of meaning, they begin to find it once again –in the rose petals that hang suspended in the corner of the canvas, in the netted image that curls across the bright orange of an indeterminate shape. The abstraction obliterates shape as experienced every day, blurring and distorting it and giving it the freedom to become something else. Tentatively, then joyfully, the shapes begin to tell a story outside of their own contours.
We see a different means of freedom in the upper floor of the gallery space, where Steciw and Rachel de Joode have set up studio for the day with the third installment of their performance and installation project Open for Business. In the attic-style studio we find the two artists –de Joode curled before the glowing screen of her computer, Steciw floating across the studio in a state of arrangement. In the far corner rests a tripod with a camera fixed firmly in place, and on the opposite walls are the products of the day, now coming to a close. Trading roles, the two artists spent the day photographing objects, everything from clay moulds to close-ups of their hands holding various objects.
“Is that sushi?” I ask incredulously, leaning in to take a closer at one of the finished pieces displayed on the wall. “Yes,” Steciw answers matter-of-factly. “We had sushi for lunch.” The whole thing feels a bit silly and thrilling, and we all giggle, because, sushi. Later, de Joode spins around in her chair to tell us that Open for Business is about the de-mystification of art more than anything else. That taking the process and opening it to the public acts as a means of connection, as a way to counter the insulation of artists within the cocoons of their industries.
We loop the small studio space a few more times, playing Paint By Numbers-style games with the various objects scattered across the studio, threading pieces of salmon to the disembodied fragments that span the wall, the clay mould to every echo of grey, the fingers of a hand directly back to Steciw’s own wrist.
It’s like the Internet itself, I say half-aloud, and Steciw jumps to agreement. Dynamic, hurried, leaving traces of its earlier self behind like shed skin, the studio space seems like the physical representation of the digital process. As we filter out of the space and say our goodbyes, I think to the end of “The Overloaded Man” where Ballard writes:
“Steadily watching it, he waited for the world to dissolve and set him free.”
I think back over my life to the ways in which I’ve invariably chased the abstract, devouring poetry, obsessing over expressionism, and I feel at that moment that I know exactly what he means. **