I Never Loved Your Mind
1 February – 7 March 2020, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Tanya Leighton is pleased to present ‘I Never Loved Your Mind’, an exhibition by American artist Sam Anderson. This is Anderson’s second solo exhibition at the gallery.
Sam Anderson’s sculptures resemble prototypes, directly expressed and emptied of unnecessary detail that might over-define their meanings. The show’s title implies a potential, singular narrative, yet Anderson privileges a plurality in which no one protagonist drives the plot. Objects and ideas are collected and arranged in spite of their differences in materiality and characterisation.
Sculptures with titles such as ‘Imagination’ and ‘Opportunists’ illustrate these hard to depict concepts. They do not narrativise them, aiming rather to define them visually. The faceless figures strung together in ‘Opportunists’ move backward and forward, both entering and exiting an open door frame. Likewise, the features of the two sandwich-board men, who serve as the emblem for ‘Imagination’ are so rounded that it is easy to confuse which direction they face. A negotiation takes place between determinate and indeterminate elements. The implication of language paired with minimal gesture creates an evocative psychological space wherein the audience fills in the finer details.
The works include found objects alongside traditional sculptural materials like cast resin and clay. Much like their hand-sculpted counterparts, these found items are at once specific and open-ended. Anderson picks up and turns over colloquialisms and commonplaces complicating their underlying functions. She takes up, for example, the trope of the virtuoso—the archetype of technical mastery, egotism and strategic thinking. There is ‘Maestro’ with a weighty baton—awash with emotion—both tortured and ecstatic, vain and insecure. A critic in a theatre box appears without his usual partner (‘Affair’). ‘Husband’ plays the role of a sought-after prize, strutting to or from work with a briefcase tucked under his arm. Popeye the Sailor—the quintessential strongman—stands atop a curved escalator, shaky in his increasing age, his virile years long behind him. On the other hand, ‘Showgirl’—an assemblage of a silver cup, feathers, and a bullfrog skeleton—points to a disappearing profession that demands virtuosic forms of athleticism and emotional labour.
Traditionally, virtuosity honours specificity and Anderson’s multifaceted approach wilfully avoids definition. Foraging through iconography of the past and present, selecting and rigorously assembling, Anderson examines how perception influences desire and vice versa. ‘I Never Loved Your Mind’ reflects our deceptions and anxieties, our moments of opportunism, pursuits of and reactions to power, and the contours of our interiority. The psychological and interpersonal dramas alluded to in Anderson’s sculptures are universal—not her own, but everybody’s.
13 – 16 February 2020
A Lawnmower in the loft (a sculpture of the book)
14 March – 18 April 2020
Christine Roland and Kara Hamilton
At Kurfürstenstraße 156
1 – 3 May 2020
Hippo Campus, curated by Blair Todd
Newlyn Art Gallery & the Exchange, Penzance, Cornwall
14 February – 6 June 2020
Olomouc Triennale 2020: The Universal, curated by Gina Renotière
Bauhaus: Utopia in Crisis, curated by Professor Daniel Sturgis, Bauhaus University, Weimar
Opening January 2020
Art in the Age of Anxiety
Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
21 March – 21 June 2020
Diversity / United. Contemporary European Art. Moscow – Berlin – Paris
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
November 2020 – February 2021
Undo Things Done Exhibition Tour
Senedd, National Assembly for Wales
26 July – 9 September 2020
Beethoven – World.Citizen.Music Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn
17 December 2019 – 26 April 2020
Art in the Age of Anxiety
Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
21 March – 21 June 2020
Masculinities: Liberation through Photography
Barbican Centre, London; Luma Foundation, Arles, and Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin
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: Melanie Isabel García
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.