Bobbi Woods, MFA Mentor, at Asphodel Gallery in Brooklyn NY

The future has no presence

Opening July 12, 2018

Your interior life is terrifying to American fascists. Words spoken in a language they can’t understand: Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Kurdish. “Sound American.” Abstraction, ideas, art itself: a threat. “My kid could do that.” The truth. “You lie.” Whispered pillow talk. “Alexa is listening.”

At the height of a very hot summer, shadows grow ever longer. What remains of the public sphere has been willfully surrendered to electronic wights masquerading as citizens. Discourse is limited to furious invective thumbed on virtual keyboards. Political consciousness is a dreary sigh. We can’t (or won’t) talk to each other anymore, much less listen. Contemporary art? A monument to its own preposterous illusions: the symbolic possibilities and real alternatives it once afforded are entombed in a series of Richard Serra’s monoliths in the Qatari desert, the playthings of a sociopathic king.

It is now confirmed that the past never was. The future has no presence. Utopia is a graft. Dystopia is the pornography of despair.

What’s left for us then? The works in this exhibition variably describe new edges to dance upon: a private chat with a lover, inside jokes, a respite from coarseness, the gift of sensuality, a paean for making, a dialogue with materials, cryptic narratives, asylum from and for the “haters and losers.” The artists in this exhibition trust themselves. And they trust you not to fall apart or otherwise fall off the edge.

Paul Celan’s deeply personal, fractured, and difficult poetry tested the edges of language and comprehension. Nevertheless, he insisted that his art was “ganz und gar nicht hermetisch” [certainly not hermetic]. Celan also described the poem as a “desperate conversation.”

Post-empathy, post-truth, perhaps even post-aesthetic, perhaps now it is time to, at once, turn inward and get closer, a time for a desperate conversation.

This exhibition features new and recent work from Jeff Kraus, Vanha Lam, Christopher Russell, Heidi Schwegler, Stan Van Steendam, Clary Stolte, Nicholas Szymanski, and Bobbi Woods.

About the artists

Jeff Kraus (Brooklyn)

Vanha Lam (New York)

Christopher Russell (Portland, Oregon)

Heidi Schwegler (Yucca Valley, California)

Clary Stolte (Amsterdam)

Stan Van Steendam (Brussels & Lisbon)

Nicholas Szymanski (Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Bobbi Woods (Portland, Oregon)

Jeff Kraus’s pictorial environments are populated by eroding, quasi-architectural fragments which vibrate, slip, then recede. Direct and visceral, Kraus’s work maps the voids between places and time. Kraus’s recent work has been included in several group exhibitions including “Half a Wave” (Brooklyn), “Millennial Pink” (Ann Arbor Arts Center), and “The Jump Off” (Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, Michigan). Kraus lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Vanha Lam’s work is informed by the wildly transient atmosphere and brutalist military ruins of her native Bay Area, her immersion in the ephemeral qualities of light and space, and study of architecture, design, and technology. Her work embraces chance and indeterminacy, the made and the unmade. Lam founded Site and Stasis, an archive of disappearing architecture, emerging landscapes, and temporal interventions, and assisted with exhibitions at Dept. of Architecture, a roving architecture gallery. She curated Topography, a radio program broadcasting site-specific sound, sound art, and other forms of experimental music. Lam is based in New York City.

“I’m interested in beauty as a lure, things that maybe have a more modernist association with beauty, but lure people into these darker, contemplative places.” Christopher Russell is his own folklorist. His photographs and publications document ghost stories, animal fables, accounts of familial dissent, and tales of survival. In 2009, he produced a solo exhibition at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles). He has also been featured in group exhibitions at the Tokyo Institute of Photography, The Norton Museum, White Columns, De Appel Arts Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Russell has published numerous critical articles and has received positive notices in the Los Angeles Time, New York Times, Huffington Post, Artillery, Frieze, and ArtForum. His publications include the novel Sniper, the ‘zine Bedwetter, Budget Decadence (2nd Cannons Publications), Pattern Book (Insert Blanc Press), and Landscape (Kolapsomal Press)–which was included in Martin Parr's The Photobook: A History Volume III (Phaidon). His work is included in the collections of over thirty public institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Hammer Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

Heidi Schwegler works in the interstitial ruins of Beijing, Mexico City, New York City, rural Iceland and, suburban America. She rescues haphazardly disused scraps from the bowels of the megalopolis: chicken bones, Big Gulps, broken signs, lost shoes, crumpled pylons, take out containers. Plastic, fiber, and bone: these materials decay but never decompose. A peerless craftsperson, she resynthesizes her sources into facsimiles with cast glass, gold, silver, wax, resulting in artwork that persists in a “living death.” Recent exhibition venues include WBG London Projects (London), Asphodel (New York), Sheldon Museum (Lincoln, NE), and the Portland Art Museum (Portland, Oregon). Schwegler is a Ford Family Fellow, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, and a Yaddo Artist-in-Resident. Reviews of Schwegler’s work have appeared in Art in America, Daily Serving, ArtNews, Modern Painters, and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Asphodel and Upfor Gallery (Portland, Oregon). Schwegler is the founder of the Yucca Valley Material Lab, a platform for making and thinking. Schwegler lives and works in Yucca Valley, California.

Stan Van Steendam is physically and mystically attached to his materials. Developing his own deeply personal and nuanced notion of “inner absorption”, his works elide painting and sculpture and bear the distinct tracings of their making, seeking to mesmerize the viewer with their radiant materiality. He has exhibited throughout Europe, including solo exhibitions at Barbé Urbain (Ghent), Theca Gallery (Milan), and Archiraar (Brussels). Asphodel organized his first US solo exhibition in 2018. Van Steendam is represented by Asphodel and Theca Gallery (Milan). He lives and works in Lisbon and Brussels.

Clary Stolte has worked with glue, nicotine, hair gel, shampoo, epoxy resin, wax, tissue paper, and packaging tape. Like her painterly Dutch forebears, her work is concerned with the symbolic rendering of primary transient elements: light and shadow. Her works optimistically glitter and reflect, then, very often, decay and disintegrate. Stolte has exhibited throughout the Low Countries including exhibitions at Galerie van den Berge (Goes), Soft Space (Haarlem), PHK18 (Rotterdam), and Spaceburo (Antwerp). Stolte lives and works in Amsterdam.

Nicholas Szymanski’s works give form to the practice of purposelessness. His paintings are developed very slowly and within extremely limited constraints: a single muted color nearly uniformly applied on a canvas wrapped panel. Szymanski dispenses with the usual minimalist tactics of purity and control; his technique is self-informed and intuitive. The subject of his paintings is quiet, solemn engagement, akin to the Japanese notion of mono no aware. Szymanski is represented by Asphodel and will receive his New York debut in November 2018. Szymanski lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

An ardent student of the moving image, Bobbi Woods translates the strategies of filmmaking to static form. Her work metaphorically describes what occurs “off-screen”: the fragmentary and elusive, the coded and occluded. She has exhibited widely, including exhibitions at Pepin Moore (Los Angeles), Loudhailer Gallery (Los Angeles), Night Gallery (Los Angeles), Fourteen30 Contemporary (Portland), Infernoesque (Berlin), Derek Eller (New York), Nathalie Karg Gallery (New York), White Columns (New York), Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (Nice), and Ditch Projects with Mark Verabioff (Springfield, Oregon). Woods is a critic and mentor for the Applied Craft and Design program, a joint program between the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. An animated, informed, and light-hearted conversationalist, Woods is a rare and genuine collaborator: her creative practice includes Private Places, an independent artist-run exhibition space in Portland, Oregon.