Is one of the purposes of contemporary art to push constantly beyond the “limit”? Is it always about being one step ahead? Is it possible to be a painter without painting? Let’s keep these questions open, simply because every answer in art, is potentially a wrong answer. Even when those answers talk about social and political themes – it would seem that no definitive answers are allowed in art.
I find myself in the space’s large main room, and I am literally surrounded by nine videos, I don’t get the sensation that Mark Leckey means to give any answers with this pieces.
Probably the opposite is true, and he is aiming to pose questions and to investigate something. We Transfer inaugurated on 10 September, and is Leckey’s first solo show in Austria. Such themes as consciousness, as well as the themes of juxtaposition/dualism and the virtual/real, are his main points of research. The artist’s idea is that technology and new media create a sort of “chaotic, unconscious irrationalism” and every human has a kind of individual , “autistic” grid that contains information, images and data.
This exhibition is much more “classical” than one might think. The work LED 1 from The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, 2014, a led Screen, shows a human figure on its knee punching the floor with its left hand, while its right hand is stuck behind its body. It is a post modern martyrdom and it recalls themes that have always symbolized the human condition: the inescapable slavery of being trapped in a body and the solitude that comes with that. The press release states: “the exhibition’s key figure is a middle-aged man in a Polka-dot dress and hat, kneeling on the pavement in supplication- a gesture that recalls icons of saints or martyrs.” This figure for Leckey best represents the “ecstatic moment of transition”. Transition, ecstasy, transformation, conversion and transcendence. This exhibition is a perfect example of how an artist can face millennial themes being projected toward the present/future.
The dot, appearing through various colors and combinations, seems to be a dominant element in this exhibition, both in the video and in the paintings.
Especially regarding the video works. It seems that the images are indeed created through a meticulous use of dots. I would define it as Pointillism 2.0. A guy dancing crazily, a glittery drag queen whose tears remind me quite spontaneously of Francesco Vezzoli’s crying divas, a map of Great Britain, a surrealistic object/body, a phallic looking object, a full moon, two geometric abstract works and a work made of rubber mould. It would seem, as it were, that Leckey is a painter based on such works – and one that shares a certain heterogeneous stylistic talent which one finds in Albert Oehlen. He’s a painter in the way he investigates formal solutions and by the way he realizes his visual intentions. He is also a painter based on his choice of subjects, the chromatic choices he makes, and finally the micro and macro perspectives he uses also underline his artistic practice as having much to do with painting.Leckey investigates new technology and the necessity for us to face a multitude of images, elements, and information in a kind of “sectioned” way, by almost hyper subdividing various subjects and putting a “painterly” light on them in each of these videos.
It is the opposite of Camille Henrot’s process (a particularly interesting artist) that investigates the possibility of “universal knowledge” as she says. By putting hundreds of elements together in one of her best works, Grosse Fatigue, she obtains a result that in a recent review I defined as a wonderful summation of the most revolutionary summary in history: the internet.
Leckey invited the artist Alessandro Raho to collaborate for the We Transfer project. In a small room, the Grafisches Kabinett, there is a very pleasant and homogeneous succession of Raho/Leckey works. It is a unique work I would say, instead of various works from two different artists. And the series is a crescendo that starts from Raho’s clean, crystallized Polka Dot man, the key figure I mentioned before, and goes through Leckey’s Silkscreen prints whose “pointillism-like“ appearance reminds me of one of Sigmar Polke’s techniques. The Crescendo ends with The Ecstasy of Always Bursting Forth, 2013, a scintillating grid, containing a fluttering fractal motif. We Transfer is a condensed exhibition, well thought out, quite stimulating and despite its dry, technological appearance and texture, one can definitely say that Mark Leckey managed to get his hands messy with paint.
Vincenzo Della Corte
Courtesy Secession Vienna, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Alison Jacques Gallery