Math Bass is now represented by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
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Math Bass is now represented by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
Bass received a BA from Hampshire College and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

NEW YORK, NY.- Over the past decade, artist Math Bass has developed a lexicon of symbols in the series Newz!—letters, bodily forms, architectural fragments, animals, bones—arranged in a variety of scores, each symbol an empty space of meaning, filled in by the context in which it finds itself. Repetition of these symbols, rather than codifying them into one solid signification, exposes the difference at the heart of each iteration; there is always a gap in meaning, something unnamable left out of and left over in the viewer’s reading—a jouissance. It is this gap in the symbolic where Lee Edelman states queerness lies—not as an easily categorized liberal identity but as a process of unmaking and undoing that leaves (gendered) subjectivity as we know it in question. That these symbols are familiar only heightens our unsettling; the negative space of these compositions, a major player in Bass’s practice, adds further to the gap.

In contrast to older works of gouache on canvas, Bass’s new paintings of oil and linen are more painterly. Whereas quick-drying gouache necessitates a pre-conceived plan, oil allows for the working over of the same material, leaving more of a trace of the artist’s touch; the result is a dreamier depiction of the same symbols, a system in which signs leave even more excess. Visually, it is as though Bass has subjected their own practice to a cybernetic process of learning, and the symbols—having been repeated enough—have begun to form themselves upon the linen, unsure of where they end, fusing together artist and work. In this way, movement and becoming are written into the paintings.

This becoming ties the paintings to Bass’s performance, sound, video, and sculptural works, which track movement through space through kinetic intervention. In all media of their practice, there is an ambivalence that defies easy reading. What does this symbol or this motion signify here? What about there? How would it sound to read it as a musical notation? These questions implicate the viewer in the work, in the process of figuring things out—only to find that there is no certain answer.

Bass received a BA from Hampshire College and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Important solo exhibitions include a picture stuck in the mirror, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2021); Hammer Projects: Math Bass, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Math Bass: Crowd Rehearsal, The Jewish Museum, New York (2017); Math Bass: Serpentine Door, Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2017); and Off the Clock, MoMA PS1, New York (2015).

Their work is represented in the collections of Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Kistefos Museum, Oslo; Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China, among others.

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