This is an archive of the ArtCat Zine, 2007-2009. Please visit our new project, IDIOM.

From a Distance at Wallspace

Walead Beshty and Roman Ondak at Wallspace Gallery, installation view.
Walead Beshty and Roman Ondak at Wallspace Gallery,
installation view. Courtesy of Wallspace Gallery.

From a Distance
Curated by Vincent Honoré
Wallspace Gallery - 619 W. 27th St., New York NY
29 November 2007 - 5 January 2008

Tomorrow is the last day to see From A Distance, an interesting if uneven group show curated by Vincent Honoré at Wallspace. The work in the exhibition ranges from very crafty assemblage and small sculpture to a few larger and more austere abstract works. Which category plays a stronger role here is hard to determine, but the small scale of most of the work on display makes the show a somewhat refreshing anomaly in Chelsea. A recycling of once vanguard 20th century forms and methods pervades the entire exhibition. Benoît Maire, for instance, contributes a series of seven black and white collages, pleasing to look at hanging in their irregular formation but a little too similar, to uncertain ends, to so much early continental surrealist collage. Roman Ondák meanwhile presents ten drawings of himself executed by anonymous people who received oral descriptions from the show's curator. Because the results are so radically disparate in style and execution — reflecting perhaps the lack of uniformity in arts training for most nonprofessionals — together they become unmistakably whole. Alban Hajdinaj's serial pastel portraits of Colonel Sanders on found KFC paper bags makes a gesture to the shared ambitions and techniques of pop art, branding, and fast food — although the final product is essentially only one of those things. The finished wood exterior to Nina Jan Beier and Marie Jan Lund's small box sculpture briefly belie that its constituting elements are a set of glued stereo speakers which emit a muffled tune, suggesting that even the most abstruse modernist art of the last century is vulnerable to repurposing in the anything-goes contemporary milieu.

Walead Beshty, one of the only two Americans in the show, contributes two of the largest works. Fold (Directional light sources...) is one in a series of abstract, camera-less photographs produced by a folding of photographic paper before exposure. The results are evocative of a Man Ray type of experimental procedure but, rather than novel in approach or zeal for new imaging technology, the work seems to point overwhelmingly at a tactile dimension in image making that is increasingly threatened by the sterility of digitization in the indexical arts. Fedex® Large Boxes, Priority Overnight, Los Angeles-New York meanwhile might be the strongest work on display. Consisting of heavy glass sculptures mailed snugly without padding in standard-size Fedex boxes, the work exhibited is only a trace of the process of package delivery usually abstracted in the commercial and business world. The movement of commodities is here rendered explicit and material: we see in beautiful detail the telling cracks and fissures in the once pristine glass upon which the commercial processes of corporate uniformity and contemporary business practice inadvertently inscribe themselves.