Lock Up International is presenting the next iteration of its nomadic project space in Tokyo, with locations TBA, opening September 26 and running to October 16.
Started by Lewis Teague Wright, the series — which has already appeared in Mexico City, Istanbul, London and Los Angeles — uses storage spaces worldwide as exhibition venues. They usually work as three-weeklong solo show in each location it chooses, with personally guided viewings arranged by appointment. AQNB reviewed a recent exhibition of Nevine Mahmoud’s Three Isolated Effectsin LA and Menna Comminetti and Sophie Lee presented Boy, ’12in London.
The Tokyo series will present work by Yuri Pattison (September 26 – October 2), Martin Kohout(October 3 – 9), and Russell Maurice (October 10 – 16). The first show was initiated by Pattison’s interest in collector marts in the Akihabara and Nakano Broadway stations, small stores in malls that rent out glass lockers.
The project continues to act as a way to bypass the gallery, art dealer, and collector, opting to go directly to the object’s end point, stored safely and hidden from view.
On a lonely hill above Los Angeles I find myself texting a complete stranger in order to be taken to an exhibition I know nothing about. Typically when I’m asked to write about art, I’ve at least heard of the gallery, and if not, I’m able to familiarize myself prior to visiting the show by reviewing photos and reading a press release. A barren website and a cryptic appointment e-mail containing the word ‘access’ confirming my reservation are all that lies between myself and the exhibition.
The stranger turns out to be Lewis Teague Wright, the ‘Gallery Director’ for transient art space Lock Up International that has hosted shows in London, Frankfurt and Mexico City. On this particular day Nevine Mahmoud’s Three Isolated Effects exhibition, running from April 18 to 24, is showing in a 10×10 space in a Public Storage facility in Los Angeles’ Elysian Park neighborhood and is made up of three sculpture pieces by London-born and LA-based Mahmoud.
The abstract ambiguity of Mahmoud’s pieces marry perfectly with their surroundings. Contained within the walls of a storage unit, we understand there is value. There is worth in the work. In the same way that value is given to art objects displayed in the white cube, Mahmoud’s Three Isolated Effects, too, feels right at home in a space with its function of storing a person’s valuables.
With construction going on both above and below the unit that houses the show, I become acutely aware of the delicacy of viewing art in a way I’d never realized. The floors and walls of the space are made of creaking and groaning plywood —the kind that noise and movement flow through freely. The banal act of walking from one piece to another to view it becomes a disruptive and self-conscious one. At times it leads me to focus on factors outside of the art, influencing the viewing experience.
Mahmoud’s most formally recognizable and least abstract piece is a colorful, to-scale beach ball. Without a list of titles or materials to refer to, I’m left to observe exactly what’s in front of me. Its glossy finish and stillness leads me to believe it is made of ceramic —making it a replica of a delicate, light object made of a different, yet equally fragile material. Diagonally across from the ball is a free-standing fibre-glass piece of what I can only guess was once a jacuzzi or bath. Smooth and white like the faux-porcelain of any domestic tub on one side, and rough and painted a bright, chalky, Pepto-Bismol pink on the reverse.
Almost invisible due to its hue and broad surface is a golden, canary yellow panel to the right. It lies nearly flush against an already yellowed plasterboard wall, creating a subtle and atmospheric piece that complements and observes the installation alongside it, without leaving an intrusive impression. The pieces conjure nostalgia in both their formal and conceptual existences. The colors and materiality of all three artworks make them familiar, even when a piece’s shape or size is surreal.
It’s rare to see a show with a title, environment and works that so succinctly combine and freely converse between themselves. Three Isolated Effects achieves what many Los Angeles art shows miss out on; existing outside of the city’s influence. Blanket statements about a place as diverse and complex as this one are typically invalid, but there are two truths that are proven exceptions to this rule: that Los Angeles has a lot of space and light. Although the white cube is an equalizer, it’s hard to ignore how these two physical elements exist and inhabit this Californian city. Mahmoud’s show, like others put on by Lock Up International, become truly free of existing in any one location.
As curator Teague Wright leads me through the labyrinth of identical hallways and safety-orange metal unit doors, in a generic Public Storage facility, in an ordinary residential suburb,these two truths of LA fall away —we could be anywhere. This anonymity, and the Lock Up International website’s lack of explanation, leads to an art exhibition palette cleanser, one that asks you to forget the white cube. Instead you’re invited to pay attention only to what is around you, and in front, lending itself tremendously to Mahmoud’s show, as abstract sculpture typically requires even a modest suspension of disbelief. This return to basics is both refreshing and eye-opening, leaving me glad to know that the places and modes of how we view art have a dialogue all their own, being hashed out on an international scale.**
In the press release for Boy, ’12, a recent show of collaborative works by Menna Cominetti and Sophie Leefor Lock Up International in London, a drawing on top of some graffiti on top of some beige tiles is described as being a bison. An accompanying image shows the found bison; its tail a part of one of the spray-painted words and its body an abstract shape on top.
They talk about cycling round the city, “looking for texts to lift”. There are several ceramic and plaster casts in the space, whose four walls are corrugated iron; some hanging from the curvy metal and some sitting on the floor. They look as though they have been presented or held up to words, marks or accidental pictures before sucking them in, hard, leaving an imprint on or even through their back. They feel close to the things they have lifted. Some imprints are worm-like, or like zoomed in views of microscopic life.
Lock Up International is a transient project, which occupies different storage units world wide. The particular unit for Boy, ’12 was in London and it looks cold, untouched, and has a low ceiling. Cominetti and Lee write in their press release about stockpiling “a collection of ghosts” and
“UUUUUUUUUs & 444444444s & <3 <3 <3 <3 <3s“
The corners of their casts are slightly upturned and seem to float on the floor as well as the walls.
The work in Boy, ’12 takes and embodies, and then hovers in that moment, which is maybe akin to the feeling you have when you type with your finger on condensed bus glass, summoning the window as well as the person you “<3”, or when you mark “fresh concrete/ a tabula rasa / an immaculate slab”. “Nobody can resist that”.**