25 Feb –
10 Apr 2021
03 Mar –
10 Apr 2021
In 2016, Saban acquired her first loom and set to work reinventing how paintings are made: Rather than applying paint on canvas, she began to weave dried, pliable “threads” of acrylic paint with linen threads, producing an object that hovers between painting and sculpture. She then got a Jacquard loom, which combines traditional, hands-on weaving with computerized mechanisms that allow for more intricate and larger-scaled designs. The compositions of these woven works, such as Woven Radial Gradient as Weft (Linen on White) (2020), are derived from Photoshop editing functions. At once purely abstract, they also suggest the inner workings of machines, like the ticking hands of a clock in Woven Angle Gradient as Weft, Black (Three O’Clock) (2020). Here we see time stopped: An invitation to pause and reflect on our ubiquitous digital tools, as well as on our current global predicament.
Computer circuitry is at the foundation of three further bodies of work included in the exhibition. Saban’s Copper Tapestries, also made with the Jacquard loom, interweave linen with metallic copper thread to create shimmering objects that hearken to the grandeur of centuries-old tapestries. Their compositions are modeled on the patterns of historical circuit boards that represent milestones in computer technology, which in turn have affected daily life. The circuit at the basis of Copper Tapestry (Computer Chip, TMS 1000, Texas Instruments, 1974) (2019), for example, paved the way for microcomputing and the eventual proliferation of handheld devices. Its surfaces gleam as light passes over them: Copper, here, represents not just an aesthetic medium, but an electrically conductive one that is often wound into circuit boards themselves.
Saban’s Pleated Ink works likewise take circuit boards as the basis for their intricate, abstract-looking compositions, though to very different effect. To create these works, the artist developed a technique of applying thin, laser-cut patterns of paper over still-wet black printer’s ink; as the ink dries, it assumes elaborate patterns in and around the paper outlines, taking on a life of its own. Rather than “ink on paper,” these objects are literally “paper on ink” as they re-imagine drawing and printing techniques for the twenty-first century. Finally, a trio of intimately scaled panels incorporates actual computer motherboards that the artist salvaged from electronics yards. Saban overlays the same wet printer’s ink atop the circuitry, as in Motherboard #3 (2020), bringing its organic viscosity to bear upon the rigid, and now inert, computer components. These byproducts of mass digital culture usually go unseen, but now they appear as mysterious, portentous objects encased in the artist’s pristine walnut frames, and gleaming across the gallery walls.
Together, Saban’s recent series move between states of being, shifting in meaning as they bridge the zones of digital and analog, fact and fiction, human and machine. Impossible to pin down, much like the streams of digital information that we encounter each day, they carry with them a distinct sense of inquiry and wonderment, even as they tackle fundamental questions about art, technology and its meaning within contemporary culture.
This exhibition is supported by Stiftung Kunstfonds as part of their NEUSTART KULTUR program.
Analia Saban (*1980, Buenos Aires) lives in Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions include Modern Art Museum Fort Worth (2019), Qiao Space, Shanghai (2017–18), Blaffer Art Museum, Houston (2016), and Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena (2014). Recent group exhibitions include those at Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA (2020), Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018), Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (both 2016–17), Rubell Museum, Miami (2015–16), The National Museum, Oslo (2014–15), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013), Centre d’art Contemporain de Fribourg, Switzerland (2012–13), and MARCO Museum of Contemporary Art, Vigo, Spain (2012). Her work has also been featured at Art Safiental 2018: Horizontal-Vertical (2018); NGV Triennial at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2017–18), and the first Made in LA biennial at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012).
So kalt kann es nicht sein / It can’t be that cold
In an echo of his earlier white as well as black works, Ostrowski pursues the idea of total reduction and a deliberate break with painterly traditions and precepts. Once again he strives for the “zero point” of painting, fully cognizant of the fact that any attempt is bound to fail as every artwork is entrenched in the culture in which it emerges, and the visual vocabulary from which it draws. The seeming emptiness of the canvas becomes an expression of this artistic self-emptying. Moreover, the artist’s engagement with emptiness can also be understood as a grappling with the history of painting itself: What constitutes painting?
The materials and palette of the new works reflect the deliberate, radical reduction in Ostrowski’s art: Even the color is a conventional, “neutral” gray that can be purchased in any number of hardware stores, not a hue that Ostrowski mixed himself. Still, what might at first glance appear to be a monochrome surface is, upon closer inspection, multi-layered and complex. Copious layers of paint are applied to differently-sized canvases (some new, some reused); the artist often paints over his own work while leaving isolated shapes exposed and highlighting or adding to them. It is a process that is also reflected in the dating of his paintings, some of which indicate two different years of creation (e.g. 2008/2020 or 2005/2021). The revealed underpainting becomes something of a window that both enables a peek behind the gray façade and underscores a sense of depth. It lends the work a certain three-dimensionality, and also creates moments in which the surrounding space come to bear in the composition. Certain works find Ostrowski extending the overpainting all the way to the frame, so that it also becomes part of the painting’s overall surface. A closer look often reveals traces of dirt, bits of paper, and leftover tape residue. Ostrowski’s painting process is deliberately laid bare, giving his works a collage-like quality.
The three-dimensionality of the painted surface is translated into space via the specific, focused installation of the works in the room. Five works are suspended from the ceiling in a centrally arranged row. Dividing the (pictorial) space, they function as a line that lends both the works and their presentation a drawing-like quality. This line is taken up and continued in the arrangement of other works: across a corner, on the walls, in and outside of the gallery space. The hanging supports the space-creating element inherent to Ostrowski’s works and ascribes to them an architectural dimension.
The titles of these new works combine Ostrowski’s typical F with the name of a well-known musician, i.e. F (Chris Isaak), F (Faith Hill), and F (Adriano Celentano). These titles, like the artist’s chosen materials and technique, work with what is already existing and available. They reference familiar, “mainstream” singers, the creators of the eminently accessible music that surrounds us in everyday life (and also surrounds the artist, who listens to it on CD).
Created in 2020/21 in the context of the global pandemic, these new works conjure even more interpretations of a zero point: As a time in which everything goes back to the beginning, back to zero, in a return to life’s essentials. In the latter reading, the neutral color gray picks up on the prevailing monotonous, drab mood while also providing a neutral ground for whatever the future may yet hold. “It can’t be that cold“, the ironic title of the exhibition, also evokes a light at the end of the tunnel. Like the exposed shapes in the paintings it functions as a kind of window, opening the mind and spirit to the possibility of better days ahead.
David Ostrowski (*1981, Cologne) lives in Cologne. Selected solo exhibitions include Spazio ORR, Brescia, and Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2021); Avant-Garde Institute, Warsaw (with Tobias Spichtig), Jir Sandel, Copenhagen, and Leeahn Gallery, Seoul (all 2020); Sundogs, Paris, and Piece Unique, Cologne (both 2019); Sprüth Magers, London (2018), Halle 9 Kirowwerk, Leipzig, and Blueproject Foundation, Barcelona (both 2017); Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Dueren, with Michail Pirgelis (2016); ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, and Kunstraum Innsbruck (both 2015); Rubell Family Collection, Miami, and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (both 2014). Selected group exhibitions include Akademie der Künste Berlin (2021), Triest, New York; Pio Pico, Los Angeles (both 2020); Galerie Bernhard, Zurich; DuMont Kunsthalle, Cologne, and Braunsfelder, Cologne (all 2019); Aishti Foundation, Beirut (2018); Museum of Modern Art, Gunma (2017); M Woods Museum, Beijing (2015); Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz, and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (both 2014).