NEW YORK, NY.- Marlborough Contemporary
is presenting its second solo exhibition by Julius von Bismarck. Although based in Berlin, this globetrotting artist rarely sits still and has visited four continents, including Antarctica, in the past four months alone. Emerging from recent trips to Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, this body of work continues von Bismarcks explorations of the intersection of human beings and the relentless forces of nature. The sculptures, photographs and video included here investigate the territory between our Victorian inclination toward a taming taxonomy and a cruel and chaotic reality. The exhibition as a whole acts as a highly distilled and museologically ordered document of extreme power and violence.
Situating the jungle as both a potent symbol of Western fear and a romanticized rainforest ecosystem, von Bismarck creates a visceral tension for his audience. The video entitled Talking to Thunder depicts the artists attempts at taming a bolt of lightning. By firing an aluminum rocket (equipped with a grounding wire of braided Kevlar, copper and silver) into a raging storm he is able to complete a circuit of tremendous power between the sky and the ground. The result, captured on video and in still photographs, appears to literally straighten the lightning bolt in its path to the ground. Designed as eventual sculptures, the rockets themselves are included here, lightning-struck relics, loaded with the history of this communion.
Like a Colonial scientist, von Bismarck has collected plant species from jungle. Rather than pressing tiny flowers in a notebook, the artist has pressed large plants and entire palm trees into flattened specimens. Heated to a precise 250 degrees in an enormous custom-built oven and a 50-ton hydraulic press, the plants are completely dehydrated without losing their verdant coloration, and squashed astonishingly flat. They are then backed with thin stainless steel to maintain their shape for presentation.
Marlborough Contemporary is also presenting its second solo exhibition by New York-based artist Lucas Ajemian. The show expands upon his critically lauded laundered paintings with the introduction of shaped canvases describing the silhouettes of everyday objects, along with the addition of an animated two-channel video.
Ajemians process begins with a negotiation with another artist to obtain a painting, then moves through a reductive course, where the end result is a material and authorial transference. Using other artists paintings as raw material, Ajemian soaks, machine-washes, cuts-up and re-stretches canvas in both conventional rectilinear shapes as well as the more surprising shapes of a blazer on a hanger or a refrigerator with an open door. The staging of these shaped works retain a kinetic energy, in the suggestion of an interaction or an interim state that reinforces their circuitous mode of creation.
Transition and a cannibalistic reuse of imagery are central to his video as well, animating still images of vegetables, fruits and other detritus into a kind of digital compost. While dynamic and formally witty, these works also broadcast a critique that directly reflects on his approach to painting, challenging issues of authorship and a fixation on process.