To do as one would
David Zwirner is pleased to present To do as one would, a group exhibition organized by gallery staff members Mary Mitsch, Martha Moldovan, and Poppy Pulitzer on view at the 519 West 19th Street space in New York.
To do as one would borrows its title from a statement on the principles of utility by British philosopher John Stuart Mill in his foundational text Utilitarianism (1863). The exhibition will present a group of artists who employ materials and imagery often associated with industrial production, construction sites, corporate environments, or commercial endeavors. Cement, office chairs, light bulbs, wire, cloth–objects that are typically the base of economic and governmental enterprises–are repurposed as art and, in turn, shed of their intended use-value.
The exhibition will showcase a photograph by Christopher Williams that belongs to a recent body of work depicting hortenkachel, bricks mass-produced in Germany in the 1960s and used for department store façades. Placed side by side, the bricks were aligned in a functionalist, but ornamental grid pattern to provide ventilation without the need for windows. Here, Williams extracts a singular brick from its architectural setting and isolates it against a dark background–a stark presentation of an industrial object as a desirable consumer product. Taking William's Hortenkachel photograph as its point of departure, the exhibition will place in dialogue two- and three-dimensional works by young artists based in New York, who also embrace and recontextualize utilitarian objects.
Among the sculptural works on view will be Zak Kitnick‘s recent series based on Hamilton Beach kitchen appliances, which debuted earlier this year as part of MoMA PS1's Taster’s Choice exhibition. The artist appropriates the imagery and graphics from the packaging of food processors by photographing each box and printing these images onto acrylic sheets to construct four-sided substrates. The resulting, semi-transparent surfaces of the sculptures, however, transform the source imagery into colorful, abstracted compositions.
Harry Schleiff will display sculptures which transpose The New York Times‘s T Magazine covers onto blocks of white cement, an action he describes as "a temporal source of cultural media becoming an enduring monument." Through the process of transference, the original image disintegrates–at times, becoming almost unrecognizable–leaving behind a ghostly imprint. Paired with the rough surfaces of the cement blocks, his works evoke scaled down versions of contemporary ruins.
Also incorporating the industrial medium of cement is Ann Greene Kelly, who chooses her materials based on their associative and physical qualities. Her Untitled (Hand Rubbing) is a seemingly weightless-looking sculpture that plays with the perception of materiality by balancing an assemblage of stacked objects–a carved stone, wooden slab, and concrete block–on thin brass rods.
Some artists refer to their abstract sculptures in figurative terms, such as John Dante Bianchi and Violet Dennison. Whereas Bianchi's Untitled (Torqued Slab), constructed from painted medium-density fiberboard and placed directly on the floor, references the vulcanized dog of Pompeii, Dennison's Never Ending Tomorrow, composed of a large hunk of cement set on the lower half of an office swivel chair, is imbued with an anthropomorphic presence.
An intense investigation into the materiality of textiles can be seen in the abstract works of Eric Mack and Benjamin Horns. Mack's Double Flag is an amalgamation of silk, cotton, and spandex stitched together hanging from two flag poles. Here, the artist forgoes traditional support structures in favor of draping fabric, a characteristic feature of his practice. Horns's brightly colored works are assembled from fabric purchased at IKEA and canvas taken from the studio floor. Using a sewing machine, zippers are attached to the fabric and canvas so that the artist can readily interchange layers in a mix-and-match fashion. The fabric undergoes bleaching to partially erase the original patterns, and color is either applied with dyes or with paint using pieces of cardboard.
Also on view will be large-scale sculptures by Charles Harlan, known for repurposing industrial materials commonly found at hardware stores. In Pallets, the artist explores the configuration of the stack in an orderly, layered arrangement of bricks, stones, wooden logs, and Astro Turf. Fence, created by inserting thin, white vinyl slats into chain-link fencing, engages with the gallery architecture on a dynamic scale, extending from the ceiling to the floor.
Xavier Donnelly also utilizes materials characteristic of construction sites to produce his architectonic sculptures. Amongst the elements he used to build Tower II are corrugated plastic, PVC, insulation, duct tape, and Styrofoam. It stands as an eight-foot-tall architectural model of a tower, complete with windows and small openings to reveal another interior structure.
Displayed nearby will be a three-dimensional work by Cal Siegel. Entitled hum, it is formed from two rhomboid-shaped panels painted white and placed at different angles. Enclosing the work is a metal armature, which functions as a framing device, that has been further propped on two paint buckets.
Zachary Susskind's contributions will include Dental, a recent sculpture that resembles a door frame made from aluminum and various materials, and Neighbor, a work comprising twisted rubber which is seamlessly mounted onto the gallery wall while simultaneously projecting into space.
As seen in their flat-surfaced works on view, artists like John Szlasa and Nick Darmstaedter share a common interest in blurring the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Rather than solely relying on traditional painting media, the artists often incorporate found objects and nontraditional elements. Whereas cement is combined with construction mesh, rebar, and other industrial components in Szlasa's untitled work from 2014, Darmstaedter’s Donks consists of "kitschy" magnets on galvanized steel, the same material used for refrigerators, which appears from a distance to be a color field painting or glass mosaic.
To do as one would will highlight the innovative ways a new generation of artists is continuing to mine the expressive potential of utilitarian objects to increasingly poetic and unexpected ends.
The exhibition is curated by David Zwirner Sales Assistants Mary Mitsch, Martha Moldovan, and Poppy Pulitzer.
Artists included in the show: John Dante Bianchi, Nick Darmstaedter, Violet Dennison, Xavier Donnelly, Charles Harlan, Benjamin Horns, Ann Greene Kelly, Zak Kitnick, Eric Mack, Alex Perweiler, Harry Schleiff, Cal Siegel, Zachary Susskind, John Szlasa, Christopher Williams