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Exultant and Optimistic Abstraction

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Gerold Miller, TO 15, 2020, lacquered aluminium, 180 x 180 x 11.30 cm; Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2017, C-print, 79.50 x 95.50 cm Gerold Miller, TO 15, 2020, lacquered aluminium, 180 x 180 x 11.30 cm Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2017, C-print, 79.50 x 95.50 cm Robert Moreland, Blunted Red Rectangle V,  dropcloth on wooden panel with acrylic paint, tacks and leather hinges. Anselm Reyle, Untitled, 2022, mixed media, neon, cable, acrylic glass, 157 x 137 x 24 cm Vincent Szarek, BC1 Viper Green, 2023, urethane on fibreglass, 160 x 16.50 x 6.30 cm; Vincent Szarek, BCT Ebony, 2023, urethane on fibreglass, 183 x 15.24 cm; Anselm Reyle, Untitled, 2023, neon, cable, chains, 3.30 m., mixed media on canvas, 135 x 114 cm Vincent Szarek, BC1 Viper Green, 2023, urethane on fibreglass; Vincent Szarek, BCT Ebony, 2023, urethane on fibreglass; Anselm Reyle, Untitled, 2023, neon, cable, chains, mixed media on canvas; Rosie Rose, Unicode Series Rosie Rose, six works from Unicode 003A series, 2021, each zipper on canvas, 41 x 32 x 2 cm; Greg Bogin, all together (friendlier), 2017, acrylic and urethane on canvas, framed: 86.40 x 236.20 cm Rosie Rose, six works from Unicode 003A series, 2021, each zipper on canvas; Greg Bogin, all together (friendlier), 2017, acrylic and urethane on canvas; Brendan Van Hek, Elevated Frame, 2023, wool, carpet; Tariku Shiferaw Still Strugglin’ (Raekwon), 2022 Tariku Shiferaw, Still Strugglin’ (Raekwon), 2022 Acrylic on canvas 152.40h x 121.90w cm Tariku Shiferaw, Still Strugglin’ (Raekwon), 2022, detail, acrylic on canvas, 152.40 x 121.90 cm Tariku Shiferaw, Still Strugglin’ (Raekwon), 2022, acrylic on canvas, 152.40 x 121.90 cm; Blair Thurman, THE SNAKE RING, 2023,  acrylic and canvas on wood, 179 x 99 x 13 cm Tariku Shiferaw, Still Strugglin’ (Raekwon), 2022, acrylic on canvas; Blair Thurman, THE SNAKE RING, 2023,  acrylic and canvas on wood; Jim Roche, Aframe 1, 2023, and Aframe 2, 2023, both polystyrene, synethetic polymer, ink, resin Jim Roche, Aframe 1, 2023, and Aframe 2, 2023, both polystyrene, synethetic polymer, ink, resin, both 130 x 60 x 8 cm Installation view of Ümwelt at Starkwhite. Installation view of Ümwelt at Starkwhite. Anselm Reyle, Untitled, 2009, mixed media on canvas, 135 x 114 cm; Blair Thurman, CRATE MOTOR, 2023, acrylic, fiberglass on canvas on wood, 66 x 103 x 22.25 cm Jessica Stockholder, Untitled, 2010, paper, Prismacolour pencils, acrylic and oil paint, plastic bowl, small stone, rubber mat, rubber fragment, 47.60 x 104.10 x 17.80 cm;  Daniel Boccato, cryoface, 2019, epoxy, fibreglass, polyurethane, 173 x 175 x 23 cm Daniel Boccato, cryoface, 2019, epoxy, fibreglass, polyurethane, 173 x 175 x 23 cm Installation view of Ümwelt at Starkwhite. Elizabeth Pulie, #67 (Cape for my Guru), 2017, acrylic, linen, cotton, wool, hessian, 200 x 180 cm x 114 cm Elizabeth Pulie, #67 (Cape for my Guru), 2017, acrylic, linen, cotton, wool, hessian, 200 x 180 cm x 114 cm; Blair Thurman, N.Z. Rider, 2023, acrylic on canvas on wood, 193 x 81 x 14 cm

In a particularly exuberant international exhibition organised for Starkwhite by Sydney artist Jonny Niesche, formal qualities such as hot saturated colour, thick curved line and sharply angled shape provide a joyful, celebratory, bodily alternative to much of the crisis-driven, declamatory, politically strident statements dominant in many current gallery programmes.

Auckland

 

Daniel Boccato, Greg Bogin, Florian Maier-Aichen, Gerold Miller, Robert Moreland, Elizabeth Pulie, Anselm Reyle, Jim Roche, Rosie Rose, Tariku Shiferaw, Jessica Stockholder, Vincent Szarek, Blair Thurman, Brendan Van Hek
Ümwelt
Curated by Jonny Niesche,

 

1 September - 30 September 2023

Ümwelt is a particularly exuberant international exhibition organised for Starkwhite by Sydney artist Jonny Niesche, formal qualities such as hot saturated colour, thick curved line and sharply angled shape provide a joyful, celebratory, bodily alternative to much of the crisis-driven, declamatory, politically strident statements dominant in many current gallery programmes.

Presenting 26 works from 14 artists spread over 3 rooms, Ümwelt is a biological term applied to nonhuman and human subjectivities. Here though it tends to dwell on the universes of artists and the restless energised desire activated within their insular hermetic worlds. Of the contributors, half are from the USA, three are Australian, three others are German and one is Korean.

A couple, like Rose and Stockholder, are surprisingly intimate with an emphasis on close-up textural scrutiny and unusual materials. (Rose exploits improvised irregular grids of snipped-up plastic zipper, and Stockholder has ‘scruffily’ scumbled brushmarks directly applied on to mounted glass.) Most are compositionally bold, and easily examined from a distance. Many show a preoccupation with hi-gloss automobile paint, car-lovers that revel in coloured sheen on curved surfaces.

Even though the three exhibiting spaces are on three floors, the works interconnect vertically and diagonally as if the architecture were invisible. The selection is cohesive, yet full of surprises. Many of the exhibits can be paired up in contrasting or sympathetic combinations, acting as visual foils or formal companions. Here are eight examples.

The triangle-based works of Daniel Boccato and Elizabth Pulie are striking green and black relief sculptures that dominate the top space. Cryoface and #67 (Cape for my Guru) rely on soft geometry for their impact, though the latter has other coloured geometries inserted. A primal slabbed physiognomy versus a sheeted decorative garment, their severe angular contours effortlessly grab your attention.

Anselm Reyle’s two Untitled linear neon works, whilst on a romantic theme, hint at the fragile possibilities of commitment. One of these spindly contributions has a shimmering reflective silver pillow behind it, muddling, greatly complicating and distorting its clarity of drawn and read definition.

A third Reyle work, a rectangular painting with butted together metallic vertical strips, can be compared to Verstärker, a freestanding Newmanesque obelisk sculpture by Gerold Miller, made of polished aluminium, positioned in the gallery window.

Two particularly elegant coloured reliefs, with decentred looping bands that allude to high-speed motorways, are presented by Greg Bogin and Blair Thurman: one horizontally aligned, the other vertical. Another Thurman contribution, NZ Rider, a squashed vertical ring that is restrainedly wiggly, can be related to two straight hi-gloss-covered vertical curved beams from Vincent Szarek, BC1 Viper Green, and BCT Ebony.

Robert Moreland‘s Blunted Red Rectangle, and Jim Roche‘s two Aframe works, play on angular bending surfaces dramatically effecting vertical centres. Moreland has five descending adjacent planes—two fixed and two at the ends and middle, attached with leather hinges—while Roche’s wall sculpture is solid fibreglass, curved in profile and multicoloured.

Tariku Shiferaw‘s rectangle of thin agitated blue, positioned behind five hovering horizontal hard-edged bars of brown and black, delights in its background of manual freneticism, as does the teeteringly chaotic Jessica Stockholder with its painted glass, attached plastic bowl and folded rubber mat.

One photograph, a strangely coloured, subtly surreal print from Florian Maier-Aichen, is included in the show, showing an immense beach and an infinitely stretching sea. Its accentuated horizontality can be contrasted with a rug-work by Brendan Van Hek. In his contribution, the dark tufted borders that surround two dominant pale squares are deliberately misaligned, being rudely chopped off at the edges of a pale blue background woven support. The carpet’s spatial limitations are therefore mocked; a source of droll amusement.

This splendid exhibition of innovative materiality and lively composition is quite a treat. For Auckland where the post-lockdown (and politically obsessed) scene—like in other cities—has become somewhat stale and stodgy of late, it is a welcome draught of clean fresh air.

John Hurrell

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This Discussion has 6 comments.

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Ralph Paine, 3 p.m. 19 September, 2023

I.
No politics?

To make out that the artists here are operating in some hermetically sealed, politics-free zone is a naive statement at best, disingenuous perhaps, but in the last instance Dangerous-to-the-Max. In other words, no Umwelt here, no strictly BIO- or ZOOSEMIOTIC milieu. The artists aren’t ticks (to use von Uexkull’s famous example) as limited by a small set of affects, codes, models; they aren’t operating in an individuated assemblage of which they are simple parts.

The artists (and the gallerista!) are operating in—agents of, bearers of—a GLOBAL milieu of milieus, a zone of METASEMIOSIS in which language and other highly ABSTRACT, symbol-based modelling processes combine with but nevertheless attempt to dominate and control (via overcoding and axiomatics) all other types and levels of semiosis (sign-activity = life).

The operating SYSTEM functional within the GLOBAL milieu of milieus, its Abstract Machine (as coextensive with the Capitalist War Machine) is today Cybernetic: digitalized, communicational, and info-matic. In this sense, communication and information have become the constitutive MODALITIES of contemporary production, consumption, and exchange. Hence, communication and information are now commodities-in-themselves. Because coextensive with the absolute DESTRUCTIVENESS of the Capitalist War Machine, today’s Global Art System is 100% immersed in politics. If METASEMIOSIS (of which the Global Art System partakes) is quite capable of the invention/fabulation of Other Possible Worlds, this in itself indicates a politics.

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Ralph Paine, 3:04 p.m. 19 September, 2023

II.
What then is the political vibe emanating from Starkwhite’s Umwelt exhibition? Is the exhibition gesturing toward or figuring-forth anything but Business-as-Usual? Clearly not! There are no Other Possible Worlds on display here. It’s all re-run and cliché. Thus, what we get is: high-res digital printing; neon and plastic; computerized product DESIGN; the rounded-corner effect of credit cards and smartphones and their images (e.g. as on X, formerly known as Twitter); the shine, gloss, metallic surfaces, and intense industrial colour effects of cars, appliances, devices, toys, screen displays, satellites, weapons, etc.

If all this comes on as an aesthetic of the Cybernetic Hypothesis (see: Tiqqun, 2020), this is reinforced by the inclusion of 3-D images of feedback loops: same inputs, same outputs; encrypted control; redacted texts; problems of chance, uncertainty, and risk managed by the 70yr-established directives of an American-born(e) International Style (Style of Empire) well suited to and SYNCHED-with the White Cube, the Art Museum, and the walls and spaces of corporate HQs and penthouses of the global OLIGARCHS and their financiers. Seamless blend from one twisting and turning end of the System to the other. When Deleuze said that the Society of Control is symbolized by the SNAKE, he wasn’t wrong!

Just as these days every guru’s cape must have its krafty, All-seeing eye…

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John Hurrell, 8:07 a.m. 2 October, 2023

Ralph, what's this righteous indignation about Starkwhite and the marketplace? I notice that you--with your considerable design skills in creating drawings of tasty allure--did not offer them for free when exhibiting them in Gambia Castle or Mercy Pictures.

Aren't you being more than a little two-faced?

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Ralph Paine, 8:52 p.m. 3 October, 2023

Only TWO faces? F_ck it, I've got a thousand different faces. Just depends on the light... Or the shadow.

And rest assured, my art ain't Designed (with a capital 'D'), it's Channeled (with a capital 'C').

But what's with this ad hominem sh_t anyhows?

My two comments above addressed two different yet interconnected things...

First comment: the Umwelt exhibition is not politics-free. Your review made it out to be so, and so in this comment I am critiquing your assertion.

Second comment: if the Umwelt exhibition is not politics-free then what are the politics on display? I say that the politics of the exhibition are not visionary (no Other Possible Worlds on view here) but rather only rerun and cliche. In other words, the exhibition is a perfectly executed manifestation of a 70yr-established International Style (Style of Empire), a collection of generic abstraction we've all seen a billion trillion times before; and yet despite this (or perhaps precisely because of this!), the style maintains a wonderful track record in the marketplace. Hence: here Starkwhite are trading in rerun and cliche. The gallery, in this instance, is hyper conservative.

So yeah, in no way am I criticizing Starkwhite for trading. It's the generic style of art that they're trading in that I'm critiquing.

I kinda like the guru's cloak though: the Master's Eye.

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Ralph Paine, 8:12 a.m. 4 October, 2023

"KARMA-THEORY. Deskill-Reskill … Turn away from the current art system, conspire against it, help dismantle it. View inequality and precariousness as a planetary condition and thus one shared by artists with all the vast and teeming populations composing/decomposing/recomposing the Earth: machinic, human, animal, plant, mineral, other … Help build a refreshed network of relations, a new ‘we’, a new art game (rather than ‘system’) with a different set of rules and procedures, rules and procedures set adrift along the flows and fluxes of a coming ‘Cosmotechnics’ (Yuk Hui). Meanwhile, perhaps making nothing is the way to go: Duchamp’s famous laziness."

Here's the link to an article where I do attempt a very brief critique of the current market-driven and hyper-commodified art system....

https://eyecontactmagazine.com/2022/11/we-the-artists-or-the-delivery

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