Springsteen Gallery

Alex Ito @ AA|LA reviewed

30 September 2016

One of the more intriguing and unique aspects of the LA art scene is the multitude of spaces in which art is shown. Often these galleries (white cube, a friend’s garage, or otherwise) serve as a neutral backdrop for whatever show exists within them. Smooth, whitewashed walls and forgettable floors comprise the gamut of exhibition venues. Alex Ito’s Act I: The Crucible’s Nest, running at Los Angeles’ AA|LA September 10 to October 22, opposes this unspoken standard, and in doing so opens up a dialogue all its own.

The New York-based artist ruptures expectation by interrupting the ‘norm’ of art environments. This lends itself to his show, with its main concept centered on conventions and aesthetic perception, as well as the multiple and commercial production of objects of ‘beauty’. Preceding a sequential exhibition, Act II, happening at Baltimore’s Springsteen gallery in mid-October, Act I: The Crucible’s Nest sticks to its title. The gallery space becomes a melting pot of points and counterpoints, a safe place to be uncomfortable and question how we see and exist around art.

Alex Ito, Act I: The Crucible’s Nest (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + AA|LA, Los Angeles.
Alex Ito, Act I: The Crucible’s Nest (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + AA|LA, Los Angeles.

One of the more glaring landmarks of Ito’s show is the brand new, sand-colored industrial carpet laid out on the floor. This office-grade, acrylic textile literally creates a platform of falsity upon which the exhibition exists. The strong smell of plastic permeates, enhancing the already bizarre and off-kilter pieces on display.

‘My Mirror My Cage’ (2016) is a recognisable artefact — a white leather recliner. Situated in an otherwise lonely corner of the gallery, it is punctured in a number of places by thin steel rods. The rods, though not overtly violent, render the chair unusable — making it impossible for someone to sit comfortably in it, stripping the sculpture of its utilitarian associations. Reflecting this piece are two sculptural pieces, drilled directly into the carpet. ‘Ghost Rack I & II’ (2016) exist as delicate yet immovable tree-like fixtures. Off several protruding metal ‘arms’ hang the taxidermy bodies of white mice, caught in moments of suspenseful distress as they appear to hang on for dear life. Also mirroring below are  rodent-sized, blown glass sculptures with similar formal qualities to the dead mice, but abstracted beyond confident recognition.

Ito’s sculpture ‘Crucible’s Nest’ (2016) is made in the likeness of a coffee table. Atop its surface, trapped beneath a standard pint glass, we come across another example of the by now repeated taxidermy mice. Literally caught in a corner, the mouse is across the low, black wood table from a clear glass decanter, filled with an opaque black liquid. This decanter, simultaneously decorative and unnerving is emulated in the series of paintings hanging along the gallery walls.

Alex Ito, 'My Mirror, My Cage' (2016). Install view. Courtesy the artist + AA|LA, Los Angeles.
Alex Ito, ‘My Mirror, My Cage’ (2016). Install view. Courtesy the artist + AA|LA, Los Angeles.

Each large painting features the same glass vessel we see in ‘Crucible’s Nest’ (2016), filled with the black substance. Hand-painted and identical in shape and size, we pick up again on the theme of multiplicity, reproduction and how these facts permeate art and commercial art markets. The differences between each painting lies in the text superimposed over the decanters. The bold letters form abstract sentences, making the entire series of paintings come across as a monotonous and eerily violent advertisement-like body of work.

The pieces in Act I… blend together on the almost blinding beige carpet, and unanimously create an uneasy dialogue surrounding the quixotic standards of beauty and ideas of comfort. The show itself comes across as a staged home interior from hell, where nothing feels quite right. This uneasiness holds power over its viewer, as you’re unable to escape the permeating sense of disgust and unsettled aesthetic. It’s a complex cooperation of concepts and media, leaving viewers on edge and inexplicably eager to see where the conversation might go in Act II.**

Exhibition photos, top right.

Alex Ito’s Act I: The Crucible’s Nest running at Los Angeles’ AA|LA September 10 to Oct 22, 2016.

Header image: Alex Ito, ‘Ghost Rack II’ (2016). Installation detail. Courtesy the artist + AA|LA, Los Angeles.

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Colin Foster @ Springsteen Gallery, Jul 9 – Aug 6

8 July 2016

Colin Foster is presenting solo exhibition The Squinter’s Watch at Baltimore’s Springsteen Gallery, opening July 9 and running to August 6.

There is little information on the themes of the exhibition itself, aside from a short fictional text by Nicolette Polek that tells the story of a seemingly stranded fire-breathing dragon in a juniper tree. Abused by the boys and violently retrieved by a girl in a “hot pink skirt”, the events that unfold are observed from a distance by a first-person narrator: “someone probably loved that juniper tree.”

Foster, who appears to work largely with sculpture and installation, has more recently presented as part of Springsteen’s exhibition at Mexico City’s Material Art Fair 2016 and also the Baltimore-based gallery’s Narrow Waves group exhibition at New York’s Interstate Projects last year.

See the Springsteen Gallery website  for details.**

Colin Foster, 'Cut in Line, Twice' (2014). Install view. Courtesy the artist.
Colin Foster, ‘Cut in Line, Twice’ (2014). Install view. Courtesy the artist.
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Wrath Pin Face Binned @ Minnesota Street Project, Jun 4 – Jul 2

4 June 2016

The Wrath Pin Face Binned group exhibition is on at San Francisco’s Minnesota Street Project, opening June 4 and running to July 2.

The event hosted by Et Al. comes as part of an expanded programme presenting two concurrent exhibitions, one organised by the Californian space and curatorial project called Den and one by a guest gallery. This time Baltimore’s Springsteen is featuring, with artists Nate Boyce, Brendan Fowler, Andrea Longacre-White, Flannery Silva, Marisa Takal and Erika Ceruzzi, who has a solo exhibition, Laundered Fang, running at the Maryland gallery until June 11.

There’s little information on the themes and materials of Wrath Pin Face Binned itself but the aim of the series as a whole is described as one that plays with “incidental contact and surprising context along with Et al.’s longtime interest in hospitality.”

See the FB event page for details.**

Erika Ceruzzi, Laundered Fang (2016). Exhibition view. Springsteen, Baltimore.
Erika Ceruzzi, Laundered Fang (2016). Exhibition view. Springsteen, Baltimore.
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Erika Ceruzzi @ Springsteen, May 14 – Jun 11

13 May 2016

Erika Ceruzzi is presenting solo exhibition Laundered Fang at Baltimore’s Springsteen gallery, opening May 14 and running to June 11.

The New York-based artist opens the event announcement with a short paragraph contemplating the “right to collapse” in a state of overload: “To release what is taught. Thread – borne from phantom force. Under this weight the spine is free to torque.”

Ceruzzi has previously taken part in group exhibitions at London’s Rowing, and New Galerie in Paris, while recently exhibiting with Springsteen at this year’s Material Art Fair in Mexico City.

Laundered Fang will be her first solo show with the gallery, where she will present what the press release calls “a corridor where incisions are on view, and objects rest in dormant surge”, in the space between a parking garage and West Franklin Street.

See the Springsteen gallery website for details.**

Erika Ceruzzi, ‘Ribbons (Electrobank)' (2014). Install view. Courtesy Rowing, London.
Erika Ceruzzi, ‘Ribbons (Electrobank)’ (2014). Install view. Courtesy Rowing, London.


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Bea Fremderman + Andrew Laumann @ Springsteen, Mar 26 – Apr 23

24 March 2016

Bea Fremderman and Andrew Laumann are presenting joint exhibition Machine in the Garden at Baltimore’s Springsteen gallery, opening March 26 and running to April 23.

The two artists, based in New York and Baltimore respectively, introduce the exhibition with a text taken from from cult sci-fi director George Lucas’ first feature-film THX 1138 (1971). It’s a dystopian thriller set in the 25th century where free will and sex has given way to mandatory drug-taking and a religion called OMM to make society a “perfectly happy” one.

My time is yours…
Very good, proceed…
Yes, I understand…
Yes, fine…
Yes… yes, I understand…
Yes, fine…
Could you be more… specific?
You are a true believer. Blessings of the state, blessings of the masses. Thou art a subject of the divine. Created in the image of man, by the masses, for the masses.
Let us be thankful we have an occupation to fill. Work hard; increase production, prevent accidents, and be happy.
[or] Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy more and be happy.”

See the Springsteen website for details.**

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Material Art Fair 2016 reviewed

25 February 2016

“Material Art Fair es la unica feria de arte contemporaneo en Mexico que se dedica a las practicas emergentes”, reads the homepage of the Material Art Fair website. The third edition, running from February 4 to 7, gathers more than 60 international galleries, project and artist-run spaces together in Mexico City. Settled on the sixth floor of the Expo Reforma –a 60s building caught between its own decay and attempts at some modernization near the historic city center and financial district –the event manifests in a maze where ‘emergent’ art spaces and practices mix and mingle in a kind of general mess. The hip set indeed exchange their natural habitat of alleys and signs for a spatial organization where booths follow one another in a row. The advantage: every way enables a round trip between the air-conditioned restaurant, the bookstore, the reception, the toilets, and almost nothing escapes the viewer.

Darja Bajagić @ Material Art Fair (2016). Installation view. Courtesy New Galerie, New York.
Darja Bajagić @ Material Art Fair (2016). Installation view. Courtesy New Galerie, New York.

At Mexico City-based Lodos‘ booth two large tapestries, vintage and traditional looking, are suspended on both sides in its center, creating a partitioned space.  Forced to sneak behind these compositions by French Mexico City-based artist Yann Gerstberger, these images or landscapes made of tinted floorcloth precede another mixed vision of the world in New Galerie’s installation. At one’s feet, silicone sculptures that look like different colored ox tongues by New York-based Olivia Erlanger prefigure the life-sucking cannibal scenario of movies and images by fellow NYC artist Darja Bajagić. Perched between thriller, pornography and death metal culture, one of her printed CDs hung on a wall reads, “Kill this fucking world”. It appears beside a series of C-print on hand-carved foam board –a blurry image of a goat, a sign that reads “Does that mean they are friendly” –by Vienna-based artists Anna-Sophie Berger’s completing the surgical picture.

Further on, Springsteen, a project established in 2013 by Baltimore duo Amelia Szpiech and Hunter Bradley, presents a series of paintings and found-objects by Erika Ceruzzi, along with a selection of robotic sculptures by Colin Foster including one described in a review on Artspace as “a ‘modified’ bug zapper that now works as a sculptural object while still killing bugs”. At Exo Exo, Brooklyn-based duo Bending Binding and their ‘Kooling Systems’ air conditioning condenser and aerosol paint explore the future stakes of past technologies in an ultra-productive and fast, yet failing and polluted globalized world.

SPF15, San Diego @ Material Art Fair 2016. Installation view. Courtesy the project.
SPF15, San Diego @ Material Art Fair 2016. Installation view. Courtesy the project.

One of the most interesting stories of this third edition of Material Art Fair is San Diego mobile project SPF15. Hidden beside the VIP restaurant, it occupies a space between projection, performance, discussion platform and what looks like a fire escape. “I’m sitting on the beach; it’s not particularly warm”, writes Morgan Mandalay, director and founder of the project in his announcement letter, “Despite the tales, it’s not exactly beach weather year round in San Diego.”  The exhibition series was first initiated under the Sunday Project before changing its name to SPF15 Exhibitions –not just a UVA protection guideline but short for ‘Sunday Project for 15 Exhibitions’: “Again I dive in head first with curiosity and knowing it will be a project of experimentation; a lab”.

More specifically, SPF15 is physically a three-by-three meter pop-up canopy on the beach. While it operates as a gallery, it is also conceived as a kind of social sculpture in which each exhibition is also a collaboration with a changing tent. For the fair, the canopy is an overall installation with works by Michael Assiff, Chelsea Culp, Tim Mann, Josh Reames and Kim Schreiber. Always creating a fiction or a scenario connected with this context and being able to settle everywhere, the display this time pays tribute to the body. Culp’s large sculpture ‘Party Panties’ (2015) is a drunk, disenchanted and failed one. “The beach as a space ignites the mutual feelings of titillation and shame for that titillation”, writes Morgan in an email addressing the choice of tent-as-installation-area. “The beach to me has always operated as a space to explore dualities: Land and sea, leisure and labor, the sexuality of the body and its banality.” Everything is about borders –physical, political, poetical.

“- How it works? – Clay”, says the text by Schreiber presented on a tablet at the SPF15 tent entrance. Inside is a ceremony, a kind of initiation rite, exposed but intimate; mobile, fictive, hidden. It’s a transitive space, a place of passage, learning, much like Korakrit Arunanondchai‘s ‘Painting with History in a Room Filled With People With Funny Names 3’ (2015) film, this time showing as Lodos’ gallery space in Mexico City’s San Rafael and presenting a spiritual, social and almost technological portrait of the artist.

It’s a portrait that Yves Scherer extends well beyond himself, interring it into a beautiful, abandoned building in Mexico’s Juárez district with his Snow White and the Huntsman exhibition. Organized by joségarcia, mx and Attilia Fattori Franchini, it takes gossip and fan fiction as a starting point, reconstituting these stories into a physical context of immersive environments. Photos of actress Kristen Stewart and references to her public love scandal with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders appear alongside drawings and photos of Scherer himself to recreate the ‘rumor’ in his own image. Iconic representations of 19th century icons, pictures from Hollywood movies and tabloids, as well as personal pictures of the artist are arranged, framed and under glass as compositions or collages that put all these narratives on equal footing. What is real? What is invented? What is media?

An interweaving or imbrication of fictions, one within the other, is at work here. As with the Material Art Fair booths following one after the other, the VIP restaurant containing the SPF15 project containing the story of San Diego’s beach, and Arunandonchai’s film telling the story of an artist becoming an artist, there’s something ambiguous at play here; something ungraspable yet contained between the being, wanting, acting and telling of art and existence. **

Event photos, top right.

Material Art Fair was on at Mexico City’s Expo Reforma, running February 4 to 7, 2016.

Header image: Yves Scherer, ‘Jeep Cherokee, 2016’ (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artists + joségarcía, Mexico City.

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