Tuesday, March 25, 2014

steve roden Picks Rags!

I haven't been posting my recent art critical writings lately, for some reason, so I have a bit of catching up to do -- here's my review of steve roden's most recent show at Vielmetter Projects, published in the December 2013 issue of Modern Painters -- still very hard to come by in LA, and their web presence is negligible -- but definitely one of the better art mags out there. Here's is the slightly longer unedited version:

"Even in his native LA, it’s taken almost 20 years for the art world to grasp the extent of steve roden’s complex, genre-blurring oeuvre. That’s partly his own fault, having begun his career by compartmentalizing his international sound art activities under the moniker in/between/noise. But as the synaesthesia kicked into high gear, roden’s diverse activities – oil painting, drawing, collage, assemblage, sculpture, installation, film, video, writing, blogging, archiving and curating… and sound art – began to resemble facets of a gigantic crystalline matrix. 

With simultaneous September solo exhibits at Susanne Vielmetter in LA and CRG Gallery in NY -- nearly identical and both entitled “Rag-picker” -- roden has managed to provide a bicoastal crash course into his fractured, hermetic domain, while expanding it into new territories. Rooted in an almost cargo-cult appropriation of conceptualist strategies and an encyclopedic understanding of Modernism and its discontents, roden’s abstract geometric paintings and score-like drawings seem like the work of a previously undiscovered Bauhaus crackpot from a parallel universe where New York never stole the idea of modern art.

roden’s work is superficially exquisite, but is always the product of a deeply droll, intuitive form of scholarship, whereby the artist derives the parameters of his process – including formalist decision-making – from analyzing some cultural historical touchstone, which is then deliberately buried in translation. In this case, roden’s brief 2011 residency at The Walter Benjamin archive in Berlin provided fuel for several years’ invention.

 Part of the appeal of roden’s art is the absurd indecipherability of the carefully encoded Modernist tropes. Even more intriguing is how the end product makes mysterious sense. With the WB materials, this is clearest in roden’s ongoing repurposing of Benjamin’s private pictographic shorthand into drawings that resemble statistical charts, diagrams of chemical reactions, or experimental musical scores – which some in fact are.

But it is roden’s new large oil paintings that offer the most intrigue and novelty to those already familiar with his work. Embracing a chance shift in materials from linen to canvas led roden to a series of dazzling new variations on his rickety geometries, employing an array of transparent purplish washes that crack open the spatial complexities which had previously jostled opaquely at the surface of the picture plane. Those elements are still in play, but now they begin to resemble paradoxical JG Ballard visions of Brasilia reclaimed by the jungle – shimmering with an unearthly beauty, but somehow not requiring the presence of human beings for validation. Post-humanism at its most sumptuous."

Images: through the landscape like a voice (self and other self), 2013, Oil on canvas, 60 X 36"; first view, 2013, Oil on linen, 14 X 11"; bacchus on a billygoat, 2013, Oil on canvas, 60 X 48"; black extendable (fragments and letters), 2013, Oil on canvas, 60 X 84"; ninth view, 2013, Oil on linen, 14 X 11"; thirteenth view, 2013, Oil on linen, 14 X 11"; when the body becomes a city and the city becomes a body (screen), 2013, Printer's ink, pencil, colored pencil on paper, 68.5 X 23.5" framed; when the body becomes a city and the city becomes a body (levitation), 2013, Printer's ink, pencil, colored pencil on paper, 68.5 X 23.5"  framed; when the body becomes a city and the city becomes a body (stain face), 2013, Printer's ink, pencil, colored pencil on paper, 68.5 X 23.5" framed. Photos by Robert Wedemeyer.

Make sure to see the works in the companion show at CRG Gallery. Here's the link: the link

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