In “All that is solid melts into eros,” Bradley Eros modifies a famous phrase from the first chapter of the Communist Manifesto, adding human life to the concepts of natural philosophy that Marx uses to explain societal changes and political systems. Through elementary forms and ephemeral objects created with common materials such as ash, foil, and paper, Eros restores ideas of nature and natural processes, where culture had prevailed with arrogance.
Eros’s pieces, hymns to impermanence, are continually reshaped through spare, playful, and ritualistic actions (viewers are also encouraged to aid in their transformations). The works are distributed around the space in groups based on the classical elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Each group is considered a series, and their titles and dates are updated regularly. In “ice (3.16.18)” (all works 2018), colorful, sensual strips of 16-mm film, AA batteries, an audiocassette tape, CDs, DVDs, and other items of obsolete technology slowly emerge from melting of blocks of ice. It calls to mind disintegrating glaciers, detritus found on beaches, or, even worse, islands of garbage floating in the Pacific. “Ashes to ashes, light to light (3.16.18),” a meditation on rebirth and prophecy, is a 35-mm slide projection made from the remains of burned writings. It snakes along the gallery’s walls. It’s a drawing that accompanies viewers on their tour of the show, and a mystical element that shapes the present and future from marks left in the past.
Eros is a shaman, an alchemist—an artist who uses transformation as a medium. His “trash” materials and deft gestures, simple as they may seem, brilliantly and steadfastly resist commodification. Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.
There is a different Laurel Nakadate on view in this exhibition. The woman here—no longer a catalyst in extreme social experiments, as she was in a number of well-known earlier projects—is a mother who reflects on her own family and personal history.
In “The Kingdom” (all works cited, 2018), the series that gives the show its title, thirty-four digital photomontages depict Nakadate’s infant son inserted into vintage photographs of the artist’s mother, who died shortly after his birth. The little boy, traversing space and time, appears in a variety of scenarios: resting peacefully in his grandmother’s lap when she was a young bride, all in white for her wedding day (The Kingdom #2); or clutched to her chest in a picnic picture and flanked by her sun-kissed friends, her leonine face framed by a gorgeous mass of wavy hair (The Kingdom #10). Nakadate played a marginal role in the execution of these pictures—she hired anonymous digital artists to create them, with only one guideline: to make it look like her mother is always holding her grandchild.
Executive Order 9066 features more photos of Nakadate’s happy and carefree son, but it is a deceptively buoyant piece: The 180 images in this work correspond to the days of her father’s detainment in a Hunt, Idaho, internment camp for Japanese American citizens. Many of these camps were erected after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor during World War II—just one example of vicious US xenophobia. Though the artist’s narratives unveil the tragedies within multiple generations of her family, they are nonetheless girded by the hope of new beginnings. Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.
The current exhibition of work by the late Martín Ramírez, “A Journey,” leads viewers in exploring the world of outsider art through one of its most illustrious practitioners. Ramírez was thirty years old when, in 1925, he decided to cross the Rio Grande, leaving his pregnant wife and three children in Mexico behind for the US. He arrived illegally in his new country, where the dream of finding a better life shattered after he started laboring on the California railroads and in mines. In 1931, Ramírez was unemployed and in a state of confusion, and the police found him on the street. He was then committed to Stockton State Hospital, where he was diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. He repeatedly told them that he was not insane and could not speak English, and he tried escaping the place numerous times. Eventually, however, he stopped talking and started drawing.
In this show, viewers encounter variations of a man on horseback, one of the artist’s most iconic and popular figures—perhaps a reference to the Cristero fighters of his former homeland. There are also obsessively rendered architectonic structures composed of repeating arches, rows of little bricks, and patterns that look like wood grain. When he did not have access to his usual materials, he used what he found in the hospital. Untitled (Brick Structure with Arches), ca. 1960–63, for example, was created on gift-wrapping paper with a mid-1950s design that melds with Ramírez’s picture.
Untitled (Train and Tunnels), 1954, likely the most complex work in the show, is a vertiginous network of concentric lines and darkened tunnels with a train running along a track of impossible construction. Ramírez is a solitary traveler through memory, and his drawings are fearless.
The first article of the Italian constitution reads: “Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labor.” But what form of government could presume a social order not founded on labor? And what would this society look like? Italian artist Danilo Correale confronts these issues in his installation At Work’s End (all works 2017), his first solo show in New York.
In one room, the artist invites viewers to relax, close their eyes, and lie down on one of a set of chaise-lounge sculptures while listening to a record that plays the voice of a hypnotherapist (Reverie, On the Liberation from Work). On side A of the vinyl, titled “Deliverance,” the narrator guides us through a visualization exercise that illustrates a typical day in a post-work world, with no wake-up alarms or appointments. In the next room, bathed in a faint purple light, we take in the disc’s B side, called “Transition.” It is accompanied by a video that asks us to consider the idea of a universal basic income, which would allow people to focus on their own emotional and intellectual needs in a stress-free environment. Correale’s project represents an antidote to the obfuscation and atrophy of a world dominated by outmoded, populist rhetoric and a lack of objectivity. For a moment, he lets us inhabit a possible elsewhere, where we can redesign ourselves and go back, in a completely natural fashion, to being Homo ludens. We leave the exhibition with a state of mind that has reached our innermost depths—as if we had just come out of a dream that offered us a glimpse of a perfect freedom that, with each waking minute, slowly crumbles away.