The Carlton Arms’ Artbreak gallery is excited to present VISCERA, an exhibition of new work by Alex Wolkowicz, the artist’s first solo show in New York. She is exhibiting a series of pigment prints on paper, taken from her Viscera textile sculptures together with an installation of the sculptures themselves in the context of an ambient soundscape.
VISCERA by Alex Wolkowicz
May 11 – May 22, 2017, open daily, noon – 6pm or by appointment.
Opening reception: May 11, 6pm-9pm
Artbreak Gallery @ Carlton Arms Hotel
160 East 25th Street, corner 3rd Ave, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10010
Wolkowicz is a multi-disciplinary artist who creates installations, still and moving imagery, sound works and sculptures. In reference to her early experiences in theatre, her practice often involves the creation of immersive environments and site-specific installations.
She re-appropriates materials that surface in daily life, in some cases linked to early memories, such as the nylon stockings in her Viscera sculpture series. The stockings’ concurrent resilience and fragility have been a source of fascination for her since she saw her grandparents use them as rope to tie up branches in their garden. She reflects on her sense of self as well as on intimate and familial relationships and personal histories. The objects, like seeds or pods, hold potential, a mystery, yet are hardly formed. She likens the process to the creation of unidentified beings, embodying aspects of uncertain gender and raising questions about their function.
The prints or stains onto paper left by these objects have become works in themselves. The objects and their imprints are like partly formed embryonic creatures. Each one has an individuality, a uniqueness. The process of printing from the objects introduces an essential unpredictability and uncontrollability, a snapshot in the existence of their parent forms.
In her studio practice, Wolkowicz has an intuitive and experimental approach to image and object making. VISCERA expands on earlier iterations of Wolkowicz’s sculpture series in which she experimented with natural dyes and photographed the sculptures placed among debris on an abandoned beach. They were also the departure point for an experimental short film, The Dispersal, in collaboration with Alison Nguyen, scored by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe in 2015.
Alex Wolkowicz (b. 1978, Lübeck, Germany) holds a BA from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and an MA from JMU, Liverpool. She has been included in the shows ‘Cosmic Laughter’, Kosmetiksalon Babette, Berlin (2017), ‘Portals’, with Cave Collective (online, 2017) and in ’Borderlands’, LA (2016). Her work was included in Satellite art fair, Miami, in 2016, curated by Doppelgänger Projects. She recently co-curated and had her work shown in the site-specific installation ’Untouched’, Stad in de Maak, Rotterdam (2017) and curated the group show ’Turn and face the strange’ (2017) at the Carlton Arms Hotel, as well as Helen Adelson’s painting exhibition, ‘Ghosts’ (2015). Alex Wolkowicz lives and works in New York City.
ALEX WOLKOWICZ. VISCERA REVIEW. ARTBREAK GALLERY, NEW YORK.
I’ve been to two illuminating openings in the last few weeks. One was the swanky Jeff Koons show at the Gagosian in Beverly Hills, the other Alex Wolkowicz at the Artbreak in New York. I’m not nostalgic but the process filled me with gratitude.
I gather the idea of process led conceptual art is that you’re let in quickly, as you are with Koons. This is just process. All those re-hashed Neo-conceptualist pieces of the 1980’s and 90’s seemed destined for the boardroom or ski retreat anyway. All as the cash registers spewed. Real art, I feel, always needs a good dose of recessionism to surface. And don’t blame me – ask Duchamp or, god forbid, Giacomo Balla.
Because the money is no longer out there – I saw no red dots in the Koon show – I feel that perhaps the fiscal value of ‘art’ has also finally plummeted (Samo’s ‘Skull’ painting for $110.5 m anyone?) And so, here we are, left again -goddamn it – with ‘the new’ all over again. ‘Conceptualism’ became packaged, not simply – but expensively. And collectors bought totem pieces as they had also done. Lorenzo de’Medici, Vollard, Kahnweiller, Castelli, Saatchi. And the beat still goes on.
But the interest in anything of value is always in the spaces in between the mainstream. This is the place where culture grows through questioning. Spaces filled with the likes of Nolde and Eva Hesse. Spaces between filled with Paul McCarthy and Bruce Nauman and Franco B…
And like Hesse, the process of Wolkowicz is subtle. This is art you have to work at. This is where you the viewer are required to join the dots one by one. To stay in the room and figure it out.
In this show we have two separate environments. We have hard-edged monoprints, with a mystery lying in the creation of hard edged forms containing free-flowing striations of pigment. There is no masking involved so it becomes like looking through an alien porthole into some inorganic sea. I first question how this process works. Which is what great art is about. How are the edges so clean? It is the spaces between the forms that informs us of the process – or is it just that we cannot figure it that out, yet.
The second room is a sound and sculpturescape, dark hanging slugs taking up the walls , suspended from the ceiling. Organic forms unlike those which adorn the previous room’s walls. A whaling call beacons, a hollow cry from somewhere else, a slow drone of a dying mammal. Then, the slow drip from one of the forms into the tin bath. This is all the clue I need. Because with this drip drip of pigment escaping from one of the forms gives me the realisation that next door’s monoprints aren’t just portraits of the alien forms now surrounding me, but an intrinsic part.
A pressing process. An extraction. The sculpture being the mother – the dripping pigment the blood slowly leaking – the genesis of the paintings in some other room where pieces of beauty now hang – created by something of absolute horror. And like a collage of fact of fiction, beauty springs from the alien form. This is big language.
Here we have an aesthetic belonging in two places at once. It again reminds me of what was once overlooked in the East Village way back in the early 1980’s. The Regan time line, when all eyes were averted toward the West Broadway dollar and Samo played happily on the walls surrounding Avenue A. It was back then that these children last played. Now, perhaps, a new meaning where mainstream art is once again, valueless.
Eventually I got the clues of Wolkowicz’s narrative by flitting between two temporal spaces. By allowing myself. That it became beautifully obvious was down to me, the viewer. And that perhaps beauty and mystery really are born of formlessness. That we can literally impress beauty into being when we really try, as this artist does from one form to another. That we sometimes can’t see it unless it’s processed for us. That the road towards realisation is left unmapped and down to us, the viewer. This is why these people, like Wolkowicz, were once called artists.
And artists are guides.
Let’s welcome them back home.