March 2008, Accidental Modernism @ Leslie Tonkonow

Installation view, Accidental Modernism, 2007, courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

Accidental Modernism

Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects
January 12 through February 16, 2008

Accidental Modernism, a curated group show on view at Leslie Tonkonow, meditates on the influence of chance in redefining the use and purpose of found objects and incorporating the voice, or the lack thereof, of the artist. Wavering between independent autonomy and non-self-referential unity, the works in the show portray a concern with freedom of manipulation, appropriation, and re-contextualization. The artists on view range in time of execution, from Rudolf Stingel and André Masson, to Keith Tyson and Ann Craven. The works on view detract and harmonize each other under the theme of happenstance art making in the 20th and 21st century.

Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is faced with a five panel, multi-colored silkscreen series created by a collective including Bernadette Corporation, Karl Homqvist, and Mario Garcia-Torres. Titled Otra de Vaqueros, each panel is marked with scratches and graffiti-like gestures, imposed or between a blotchy dark background. The work is a result of the residency project between the artists in Mexico City.

 Bill Morrison, Light is Calling, 2004, 35mm transferred to video, 8:00 minutes,
 courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York 

Rudolf Stingel’s aluminum insulation board stands prominently once entering into the gallery space, a sample of his signature wreak havoc graffiti machine, although the surface wasn’t as tainted by the hands of others as much as would be expected. But the signs of personal historicizing and mark-making is evidenced by phrases such as “ Who do you love?” inscribed onto the shiny kitschy surface. The artist takes away the author and creates a work that stands alone, defiant of manipulation by a single entity.

Keith Tyson's Table Top Tales: The Little Silver Screen is a comical and witty take on the existence of the artist in an artwork. A used table engrossed in scratches and holes are given unique destinations pertaining to TV programs taken from a TV guide. This specificity, grounds the work within the viewer’s space, as the table is mounted on the wall by the legs converting it into a screen for our viewing. Chance and text are combined with artificial surrealistic meaning, sarcastic in its rendering, and insignificant in its match-making between disintegration and consumed visual product.

Keith Tyson, Table Top Tales: The Little Silver Screen, 2000, Ink on found table, 36 x 24 x 36 inches
courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York 

Drawings by Jean Tinguely and André Masson reference the significance of chance and the automatic in one, and the surreal and anonymous in the other. Bill Morrison’s video Light is Calling is a montage of dreamy images and scenes including one of a couple and a horse superimposed by abstract brushy paintings, creating an ethereal environment rich in yellow and orange shades with figures jumping in and out of our view.

Richard Pettibone appropriates a canonical modernist work by Marcel Duchamp, part homage, part mocking, setting the name and title of the work on one petite canvas, and painting the three randomly placed strings on another similar sized canvas below the text. Pettibone takes away his mark as creator by recreating a chance-oriented creation.

 Agathe Snow, Paper General, 2007, Paper, leaves, electronic circuit,
 photograph, dust-mask, and gold, 5 x 12 x 12 inches
 courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York 
Daniel Spoerri and Agathe Snow gather discarded and used materials to form messy sculptures, embracing the found object that breathes history and displacement. The ambiguity of their purpose and meaning coincides with the unifying voice of the show: one that is concerned with spontaneous chance creations, and is unmarked by the original hand of the artist.

The show clearly articulates through non-action, happenstance discoveries, spontaneous acts, and spur of the moment creations originating from our modern fore parents. These artists were concerned by a sentiment well spoken for by Tom Burr in a recent ArtForum issue: “Collage and assemblage have been important – the process of tacking things on, whether physical artifacts, texts, images, and so on: found objects imbued with extrinsic meaning and narratives, referencing literary culture and architectural and design histories. This is also where biography and autobiography, both unconsciously and self-consciously, are layered onto sculptural armatures.”

Joann Kim

Joann Kim is a writer in New York.

view all articles from this author