To Name A Few
27 April – 22 June 2019, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Preview: Friday, 26 April 7–9 pm
I am sitting here with this feeling, and it is a familiar feeling, and it is my heart.
I am needing to reassure myself that I am not writing this letter to you, that I am
just writing it, simply writing it, simply letting it wander out.
I feel sad. My heart, my chest, what fills my chest, something like the taste of
copper, like sucking on a penny, like licking a 9 volt battery and getting a little
shock. It’s here, a little shock.
It has never been so apparent, the workings of shame embedded in my being so
old and outside, yet all the same my own deep thing to tend to, untangle, air out
And I guess it’s true, now I am writing to you. I am writing to you from me and
also to myself.
But isn’t that a letter?
The linear scroll is scraping against the pavement.
In my delusions I am literally some kind of a hero and that is embarrassing.
What holds the reigns, I think of some force, nameless, shapeless within and
outside this bodily container. Sending signals into outer space and actually
I can tell you the joy of this spring day, the brightness of 4PM light, the spirits
that burst through at this time. It’s almost too much of a drunken feeling to
manage. It’s almost too much.
There is my heart again. You know, I haven’t been able to feel my heart in so
And now I pause, and just stare at my hands, still on the board.
And in this moment I decided this letter is no longer for you, because I know
that you don’t want it.
This letter is for my heart, and I can say anything to my heart.
Right now, I am saying to my heart, I am sorry. I am sorry that I wrapped you up in cotton batting and put you away all tampered down and quiet. I am sorry that I hid you from myself, that I turned away from you while we were sleeping, and on purpose, many times.
I am sorry that I turned away from you, my heart. My beautiful, my tender, my sensitive, my loving, my strong, strong heart. And I am so sorry that I put you to rest so often as to no longer feel anything between my ribs and the sky.
To Name a Few
Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Gallery Weekend 2019
26 April – 22 June 2019
David Diao, 2018
Delmonico books — Prestel
With contributions from Philip Tinari, Michael Corris, Pi Li, Sarah K. Rich, Felicia Chen, Kerry Doran
Recipient of the 2019 Arnaldo Pomodoro Sculpture Prize
Solo exhibition opens in Fall 2019
Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan
Phaidon Contemporary Artist Series
Text by Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jeannine Tang, and Lanka Tattersall
...and other such stories
Chicago Architecture Biennial
Chicago Cultural Center
19 September 2019 – 5 January 2020
Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples
Tanya Leighton is delighted to announce that the Museum of Modern Art, New York has acquired Marianne Wex's Let's Take Back Our Space: 'Female' and 'Male' Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures, 1977
Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin, established in 2008, is dedicated to developing a cross-disciplinary, trans-generational gallery programme with off-site projects, in collaboration with artists, filmmakers, critics, art historians, and curators. Its international exhibition programme reflects a variety of opinions and practices as well as Leighton’s associations with American and British experimental cinema, artist’s film and video, performance, minimal and conceptual art.
Director: Simon Gowing
Director: Patrick Armstrong
Project Manager: Marie Egger
Gallery Manager: Jessica Aimufua
Registrar: Henry Babbage
Finance Manager: Stefan Schuster
Tanya Leighton GmbH
Kurfürstenstraße 156 & 24/25
Open Tuesday – Saturday
11am – 6pm and by appointment
Frieze, 7 November 2017
For those who take epithets to heart, Math Bass’s friendly-seeming paintings at Tanya Leighton might’ve seemed laced with bitter irony. Each of Bass’s graphic gouaches is called Newz! (all works 2017): the peppy ‘z!’ making a perversely zesty backbeat over a word that, of late, has tended to presage dispiriting information. This comic attention to letters links the works to their collective title; the pictures have less to do with the disasters and misfortunes local to Fox, BBC and MSNBC than cartoon alligators, white bones doubling as speech bubbles and other animate shapes.
These entities snap life into eight mostly square and rectangular canvases, whose bare fabric serves as ground. Often, the pictures are twinned, with repeated shapes subtly modulated; I imagined these works being compare-and-contrast exercises for precocious Waldorf children, designed to model principles of general and particular. In one, a red cone sits on the canvas’s bottom edge, rounded tip meeting upper boundary; in another, the same shape has inexplicably shrunk. Next to both hangs a white speech bubble. Inside, the letter ‘Z’ suggests that the cones are snoozing. But while one ‘Z’ is wavy and calligraphic, the other is starched sans-serif, doubled to form a punchy zigzag.
With these works, Bass hits the sweet spot almost too squarely, achieving a layered palatableness that nearly erases the knots, conflicts and enigmas that make the best artworks burn slowly. Here, visual escapism blends seamlessly with historical erudition: post-painterly abstraction, sophisticated modernist design. Meanwhile, the artist's mimicking of repetitious yet shape-shifting language delivers high-minded memories of Gertrude Stein, and the more recent L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets. Result: the paintings are nearly impossible to dislike, unless you come to bristle at their exact orchestration, in content and form. Excepting a brushy bloom of smoke emitting from three domino-like cigarettes in one Newz painting, the works are disturbed by nary a drip or flubbed edge.
All of which brings us to the question of Bass's relationship to the mores that govern good behaviour: middle-class life on the one hand, and critically aware contemporary art on the other. While these paintings risk an allegiance with lifestyle products of ‘good taste’, they also display a healthy disregard for the dictum that good art risks failure. In recent years, the veneer of risk, as performed aesthetic vulnerability, has become such a reliable artistic strategy as to feel like a new strain of conservatism. In contrast, Bass's sometimes too-reliable procedures give unassuming expression to surprising phenomena, such as the rhythms of seeing and speaking that usually remain unremarked upon in day-to-day life.
Across Kurfürstenstrasse, in the second half of Leighton’s two-building gallery, Bass makes symbolic room for the bodies that often seem to come along for the ride, while our heads go about witnessing and decoding art. Three sculptures (all Crowd Rehearsal, 2017) are comprised of canvas constructions, brightly painted in gouache and placed on structures: a canary raincoat over a black easel, a cream pant leg over a birch ironing board, a mysterious black and white pall over a red mass, revealed by knifed slits, all atop a low cerulean platform. I couldn’t take my eyes off of these bright simulations of banal items. They have the defiant magnetism of things transitioning from useful to used up: the psychedelic leaves outside my window, the spotting banana just inside it: a romantic thought, maybe, but here a well-founded one. Far from being dismissed in Bass’s new work, language and thinking are given an echo, adequate to their weird physical facticity.
9 September – 21 October 2017, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
This time, it was a speech bubble. With each new set of her "NEWZ!" paintings, I like to study the one or few new forms that emerge have always been there. She found a speech bubble revealed its absence by carving the shape of doorway from that of a bone.
Math Bass has built unraveled the "NEWZ!" series by making a grammar out of negative space. Often, forms emerge not through their presence but rather through what's withdrawn from view. I try to follow backtrack from A to B to Z. Math told me the quotation mark she uses came from is just the nostril of her often-featured alligator. (You won't find the quote in this show, but you'll get the gator's jaws). From nostril to quotation mark, a shape becomes another by not changing at all. Here,a cavity becomes language words congeal around a void.
The operation making sense out of absence makes me think about all the visceral abstractions I wade through: like gender, like value. How they work by circulation and repetition, like a kingdom of dominoes. How they concretize bodies like concrete poured in jeans by evacuating meaning like limp canvas sleeves. What is gender, what is value, besides an appearance of coherence after the fact of fabrication? And from Rob Halpern what is a body besides "a hole around which everything that appears, appears to cohere"?
I think about all the visceral abstractions wrapped around me: like value, like gender grand discourses of cash and cum. How being abstract doesn't make them any less real ly able to immiserate and kill. How they take their place among our many integuments – not just the rind, but the pith, not just the pith, but the membrane around each bit of pulp. How we grow into their architectures stretched canvas gym mat, or their folds the way unsewn hems appear to have been flayed, or need them to prop ourselves up on this is the staircase's teeth. Meanwhile, the metaphors of condensation and coagulation are all I Sianne Ngai have left to describe their work shrines to an aftermath presented as the present.
Playing dumb Los Angeles artist I watch turn my head as one object becomes another by not changing at all from N to W to Z (!). The grammar of negative space manages to articulate difference out of more of the same. How can language stand in for what's unsaid? Maybe negative space is another way of referring to tone: the work the body does around the words. Maybe negative space is the body itself a hole, a void, a wound defined by its vulnerability to penetration, definition. Maybe these speech bubbles aren't speech bubbles after all, but rather a kind of catachresis for the loss that speechlessness itself can't articulate, or the hollow in the marrow. In dominoes, a single tile is called a bone.
— Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
In her first exhibition at Tanya Leighton, Math Bass presents a series of new large-scale paintings and sculptures. The show spans both gallery spaces at 156 Kurfürstenstrasse and 24/25 Kurfürstenstrasse. This will be the artist's first solo exhibition in Europe.