Deleuze & Co.


29 March – 12 May, 2012

“This generation is characterized by a renewed confidence in the fundamental possibilities of art. There is a growing interest again in the basic formats of art such as painting and sculpture, to which these artists now turn for many different reasons, not least as a response to an outside world which now and then leaves no logical conclusion other than to disengage oneself from its dependence.”

                                                                                                -- Martijn Hendriks

“Wow, this makes my job so much easier,” I thought tentatively while browsing through an artist’s website. The documentation of his works line up in a row, with complementing, 100-word self-written explanations posted below each photo. It’s all unmonumental, minimalist sculpture combining sleek, everyday objects. “This work is about how natural selection effects graphic design in the 21st century.” What? “This work is about how the dispersion of media is effected by new technology in the 21st century.” Dafuq? I immediately felt a pang of horror—have artists been spoon fed Deleuze and Artforum for so long that their work is predigested to be neatly compartmentalized within the same language?

Worrisome here is the hermetic, academic vernacular that currently acts as the dominant method through which artists, critics, and collectors confer value. Commemorative MFA-level art historical citations act as a brain-tickling way to ensure collectors their purchase is a wise investment; and critics, that their attention and work is a relevant undertaking. Today, curiously, strategy is a must, and we’ve seen its most diligent adherents rewarded.

While it may seem a cynical position, this isn’t to argue that self-attributed academic contextualization is necessarily wrong, or sometimes even avoidable—but that its requirement, and its consequent vacancy, has become problematic. In an effort to reach outside this logocentric modus operandi, a growing number of artists have reinvigorated formalist and material practices, championing again subjective artistic expression as a reaction to the two previous decades waylaid by text and vacant “relational” commitments. Curated by Karen Archey, “Deleuze and Co.” brings together four artists, Steven Cairns (London), Rochelle Goldberg (New York), Marlie Mul (Berlin), and James Richards (London), who celebrate working through material means and democratized visual language as a form of radical departure from the conditions of years past.