Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Bathos of a Profound TItle: THE END at Vogt

THE END, curated by Michael Bühler-Rose and John Connelly, at Vogt Gallery

January 6 to February 25, 2012
526 West 26 Street, 9th Floor, between 10th and11th avenues
New York City, (212) 255-2671

Installation shot of the exhibition under review.  Courtesy of Vogt Gallery
Installation shot of the exhibition under review. Courtesy of Vogt Gallery

In a loosely thematic group show at Vogt Gallery, curators Michael Bühler-Rose and John Connelly bring together the work of thirteen different artists working across mediums. The selections mine the possible meanings and interpretations of an “end”–either as a culmination or cancellation, or as something which enables a beginning or change.

As if in imitation of the show’s vague, almost bathetically profound title, the works here seem to embody casual derivatives of past moments in art history or popular culture. Sabrina Mansouri’s sparse silkscreen Untitled 2 (2007-2009) seems to be an internet-age interpretation of On Kawara’s date paintings, yet Mansouri rejects the specificity upon which Kawara’s works relies. for its effectiveness. She favors instead a rote Ouija board composition of the alphabet with arabic numerals listed from “1” through “0”and ending with the words “Good Bye,” the neglected hyphen transforming the compound word into two distinct words of questionable relevance.

Ruby Sky Stiller’s Nude in Parts (2011) harks to Henry Moore’s women, arranged in a sort of post-cubist rendering of a primitivist Rubik’s cube. Matthew Higgs frames two found book covers, The Photographer in the City (2010) and I Never Feel Old (2010), shown in concert with two untitled works by Amber Brown, consisting of large art-looking books opened to a presumably specific page and splayed on the gallery floor. Arthur Ou presents an untitled 2012 C-print of a rather insipdly Zen water-and-rocks, a foil to John Divola’s Zuma #70, a busier, more colorful image of a phone book suspended in the mid-air of a graffitied blue room. Add to that Van Hanos’ baroque-style oil painting Rubens depiction of men as beasts (2005-2012) and a signature Kota Ezawa’s animation of a performance by The Beatles, Beatles über California (2010), and a larger connection among the works begins to reveal itself. THE END becomes a rather pessimistic message about “the end” of work which isn’t derived from a work which we’ve seen before.

THE END is a meditation on what art has been for a long time–a re-working and a re-visiting of something prior, where lack of novelty is often saved by an elegant installation. Though perhaps failing to excel in thematic cohesiveness, THE END does indeed excel in its thoughtful installation. Take, for instance, the lyrical movement from the deep-sea palette of Keith Mayerson’s King Kong (2004) to Kamrooz Aram’s Conference (2011), an intricately-rendered, primarily green-hued kaleidoscope which seems to be rooted in myth and Eastern iconography, and hanging on the wall adjacent to Mayerson’s painting. Luke Stettner’s Tributary (suspended) (2012), essentially a thick line of hemp suspended by two wooden rings, becomes a sort of measure bar or demarcation line, a necessary, industrialized Fred Sandback-recalling pause which activates the other works sharing its space. THE END is a testament to the power of context, within a space and among a group of works, which together stand in a more powerful conceptual place than when presented alone.

Ruby Sky Stiller, Nude in Parts, Fig 6, 2011. Foam, acrylic resin, thermal adhesive, 69 x 23 x 14 inches. Courtesy of Vogt Gallery
click to enlarge