It was Picasso who proclaimed: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” The tension between making and effacing has coursed through the history of modern art, from Cy Twombly’s frantic inscriptions and erasures to Lucio Fontana’s slashed canvases. With its current exhibition “Brand New Second Hand,” whose opening coincided with Frieze London, Vigo Gallery brings together 14 artists who depart from a certain kind of destructive impulse in order to realize something brand new.
Berlin-based Anja Schwörer researches and applies weathering or abrasive processes to her canvases, which are often composed of fabric. In FP_0214 (2014), she tears stretched muslin into an ethereal pattern, while in BP_1514 (2014), she applies bleach to dark denim, leaving thin, vertical strips of erased color. If Schwörer’s works bear the aesthetic residues of cause and effect, the most recent phase of New York abstract artist Kadar Brock’s output reverses the process of his previous paintings’ composition by eroding their surfaces. Scratching at his past geometric works, Brock uses sandpaper, tools, and random corrosive interventions to reveal a worn palimpsest that is in places erased to complete absence. Scottish painter Duncan MacAskill, meanwhile, literally raises new works out of the flames of his past ones. When his prolific practice produces more material than his studio can accommodate, he burns piles of studies. Ash Field (2012-2013) is a delicate painting made from these very ashes, evoking pockmarked stone or the surface of a planet.
In their transformation of discarded materials, artists like Penny Lamb,Henry Krotkatsis, andMoffat Takadiwa belong to the “Second Hand” component of the exhibition’s title. The Zimbabwean Takadiwa accumulates piles of computer keys into large-scale wall pieces—spewing, elegiac commentaries on the wasted leftovers of modern technology. Across these diverse works, the residing impression is that there may be potential in what seems like failure, new life to be found amongst detritus, beauty in subtraction. It’s a striking reminder that art is a constant reincarnation of reality.
“Brand New Second Hand” is on view at Vigo Gallery, London, until Nov. 10th, 2014.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory