Doug Aitken's solo exhibition will occupy both floors of the gallery and include a specially reconfigured presentation of his acclaimed multi-channel film installation "Black Mirror". The solo show "Science Fiction" displays the new paintings by Tal R. Maria Nepomuceno for "The Force" has created a large-scale outdoor installation to occupy the gallery's canalside garden.
Doug Aitken's first solo exhibition in London for eight years will occupy both floors of Victoria Miro and include a specially reconfigured presentation of his acclaimed multi-channel film installation Black Mirror, alongside new wall-and floor-based sculptures and light box works.
The exhibition starts with Sympathy for the Devil. In a dimly lit room a light-modulating microphone - cast from the model used to record the 1968 Rolling Stones hit of the same name - plays out the demo of the famous opening lines: "Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a man of wealth and taste". Thus begins Aitken's enquiry into collective history, suggested through fragments of pop culture and stories from the media that act upon us on an almost subconscious level. Through out the exhibition Aitken takes these elements, rendering them in a variety of forms to create an immersive installation formulated in dialogue with the architecture of the gallery.
In the lower gallery the visitor will encounter a series of Aitken's new light boxes and wall-based text works that draw on the legacy of post-pop and minimalism. Featuring iconic words, numbers or dates - One, Utopia, Riot, 1968, 1980 - these works reclaim the commercial landscape of signage in order to underscore the cultural potency of language and image condensed together into singular phases and shared historical moments. The artist has described these text pieces as possessing a 'toughness' that echoes the abbreviated nature of much contemporary communication. Terse, yet slippery in meaning, they function as provocative statements, becoming a fragmented kaleidoscope through which to experience the exhibition.
In the upper gallery Aitken's film installation Black Mirror explores the story of a nomadic individual, set in a modern wilderness: a geography constructed of calls, electronic messages, and virtual documents superimposed over the physical world. It is a portrait of people who are the products of a society that has lost track of information and is saturated with change. The characters move in shorthand, they communicate in quick pulses, they travel long distances for short meetings. They depart quickly.
The protagonist, a young woman played by American star Chloë Sevigny, exists in the borderless world of Black Mirror where people live fast lives in the shadows. These are the people you pass and don't identify at the airport terminal, the hotel lobby and the car rental kiosk. Black Mirror explores modern life accelerated. Like a river of light moving on the highway, we're all on this road, but this is the story of those for whom the road is existence; those who don't step back to breathe the air, those who never stagnate or stop... this is "the now."
Aitken's art dances to such complex rhythms. Ultimately, however, it stems from generosity. Treating the world as his studio, he edits together frenetic shards of contemporary experience, to create a new landscape, one in which he hopes we find points of anchor and experience a sense of connection.
Victoria Miro Gallery presents Science Fiction, an exhibition of new paintings by Tal R. The works in this exhibition mark a major development in the Danish artist's practice. Known for his exuberant paintings, works on paper, sculpture, textiles and installations that reflect an expansive and daring approach to subject matter, Tal R has often tempered experimentation with self-imposed restriction in terms of composition and colour palette.
The paintings in Science Fiction see a significant evolution in his methodology - both compositionally and in the application of paint. Created through a process similar to the historical use of distemper, in which pure pigments are mixed with rabbit glue, the canvases in Science Fiction glow with Rothko-like intensity. Limiting opportunity for addition and revision, this new process for the artist has resulted in a series of stripped-down compositions, which he describes as "moving from the periphery of painting to its centre."
The results draw the viewer into a series of atmospheric spaces. Subjects for these new paintings include a figure in pyjamas wearing an African mask, a carnivalesque procession, and men riding horses. The apparent simplicity of these images is deceptive. While a sense of narrative is ever present, the artist describes these new works as speaking in two tongues: "The paintings have a very gentle surface but then there's an awkward moment in all of them, a moment when you are not sure exactly what you're looking at."
The pyjamas worn by the boy in the painting, for instance, give rise to thoughts of institutional uniforms. Furthering a sense of unease, Tal R has accentuated the verticality of this canvas by tilting the perspective of brightly-coloured floorboards, to suggest, as he puts it, that "at any moment the painting could fall out of itself." Appearing in one corner of the procession painting, meanwhile, is the ambiguous number '39', while Tal R's horse riders are painted in such a way as to make them seem spectacularly ill-suited to their task.
For the artist, Science Fiction is used in a very personal way to denote the space that opens up between events that take place in a painting and our understanding of them - spatially and temporally. In a painting derived from a nineteenth-century image, Tal R depicts a group of well-dressed gents pontificating in a bohemian interior. Thinking about their salon conversation - perhaps about science, philosophy or speculation about events to come - we witness one example of the way in which Tal R enfolds ideas of the future and the past in painting's eternal present.
As the artist says: "The magic of a painting is that you are looking at everything at once. A painting is stupid, it's flat, it's weak, but in the middle of that, it's absolutely beautiful."
Victoria Miro is pleased to present new work by Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno, whose seductive sculptures and installations made of brightly coloured rope, straw, ceramic and beads spread throughout the spaces they inhabit: they varyingly hang in hammock-like forms, drape down walls, sprawl across floors, or group together as constellations in a new and curious cosmos. Each of the materials Nepomuceno employs represents one of four elements in nature - Water, Fire, Earth, Air - and she strives in her sculptures to achieve a delicate, rhythmic equilibrium amongst these.
Maria Nepomuceno allows her materials to obey their own organisational logic, weaving them together in a process that presents seemingly infinite possibilities for the spiraling, circling and multiplying of forms. Inspired by ancient traditions and complex indigenous craft techniques, Nepomuceno pushes these into a wholly contemporary engagement with space and structure, form and concept. That the sculptures appear anthropomorphic and organic is essential to a reading of her work.
For this project, Nepomuceno has created a large-scale outdoor installation to occupy the gallery's canalside garden. Entitled The Force, the work appears to rise from the water as if compelled by a cyclonic energy, expanding and spilling over onto the terrace. One of the references for this work is Yemanjá, an Orixá (divinity) of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion revered in Brazilian culture as the Queen of the Sea. Personified as a beautiful woman, proud of her feminine vanity, Yemanjá stands for fertility, life cycles and maternity: the sea as the womb of the Earth. As it sprawls, The Force alternates between gentleness, as it balances feminine forms, and aggressiveness, as it appears to drag along a boat found in its path.
Force also appears here as a synonym for resistance. The rope used as a material for this work is one which requires brute force to sew by hand, and embodies resistance in both the physical sense (there is a physical struggle in the attempt to subdue this material), and in the sense of cultural resistance, as it creates a counterpoint to a reality that is more and more technological, virtual, nearly intangible, and one in which we have lost the capacity to understand the handmade processes that have formed the world around us. These processes, laborious and time-consuming, seem at odds with the rapid pace of contemporary life, and the work inhabits a suspended state of infinite, non-identifiable time.
Image: Black Mirror (Still), 2011. Courtesy of DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art; Hellenic Festival; Burger Collection; 303 Gallery, New York; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich.
Opening: October 11, 2011
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