Encompassing a range of material and scale, the works obscure the boundaries of familiar objects, traditional narratives, and normative modes. Using techniques of remaking, rebroadcasting, and repurposing, the artists expose the underside of things presumed known.
Extracting musical potential from the soundtrack of quotidian life, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s indexes (2005–2011) consists of an unaccompanied Pleyel grand piano, mysteriously playing without a pianist. Wired to a complex, live feed, the piano strikes notes based on a predetermined metric for translating data into pitch, repetition, and chord. Concretizing as music, the piece renders enigmatic and affective the mundane functions of the everyday. Boursier-Mougenot states: “It is not a question of putting a sound object on display, but rather to show the unfolding of a whole system.”
Liz Glynn studies the ways in which cultural objects of the past embody or challenge values, power dynamics, and social systems. Originally conceived for her major exhibition at SculptureCenter, Afterimage: Cuzco (Golden Maize) reexamines the Spanish conquest and cultural destruction of the Incan Empire—specifically the 1532 ransom of Incan emperor Atahualpa by Francisco Pizarro. Glynn’s golden corn stalks and maize act as literal and poetic surrogates for the massive sums of precious metals that Pizarro demanded as payment. Through their humble materials and imperfect artisanship, Glynn’s reproductions question their own authenticity and ultimately the narratives that they denote.
For his recent sculpture Untitled (2018), Robert Grosvenor presents a vehicular object standing upright in the center of a self-contained space. Illuminated from the rear, the rectangular receptacle is left open on one end, revealing a brilliant golden interior. Quietly and strangely punctuating the container, the central structure asserts a matter-of-fact presence, its cardinal red body reflecting the suffusive amber light. Resisting interpretation as both a discrete and holistic entity, the work mines the tension between the familiar and the disaffiliated, eluding semantic specificity.
Justin Matherly’s works explore the recrudescence of his 2017 monumental presentation, titled Nietzsche’s Rock—modeled after a pyramidal boulder in Switzerland, where Friedrich Nietzsche first formulated his thought of Eternal Recurrence in 1881. For his new works, Matherly recasts the fragmented molds from his public sculpture, creating discrete pieces with richly varied surfaces—alternately luminous and alabastrine, or fissured and stained with nuanced hues. Both spectral and material, the enigmatic forms evoke Nietzsche’s explanation of Eternal Recurrence as “the heaviest weight,” whispered by demons as they “steal into your loneliest of loneliness”—but conversely also as the path to supreme affirmation.
For Paul Pfeiffer’s new work from his Desiderata series, the artist rebroadcasts televised excerpts from the American game show, The Price is Right, on two miniature screens. Through subtle, digital manipulations, Pfeiffer maroons its contestations within the stage set, keying into their emotional vulnerability. Re-contextualized as a Seussical landscape of brash color and kaleidoscopic proportion, the absurdity of the stage heightens the isolation of its participants and mirrors the unattainable folly of their consumer desires. Empty shelves and prefabricated props bear evidence of aging and wear, underscoring a sense of manufactured and systematic false promise.