Time Out New York / Aug 12-18, 2010

"The Mass Ornament"

“The Mass Ornament” is titled after a series of Weimar-era essays by German writer Siegfried Kracauer, which focuses, we’re told, “on many topics including dance, religion, film, photography, arcades and boredom.” Curator John Rasmussen, of Minneapolis’s highly regarded Midway Contemporary Art, would seem to have found the perfect inspiration for a group exhibition: thoroughly eclectic, with a hint of Walter Benjamin, the outside chance of some faith-based controversy and a built-in escape clause (bored? well, that was the point). Fortunately, Rasmussen also brings a sophisticated visual and tactile sense to bear on this selection of recent work by 14 artists, preventing a seemingly catchall premise from birthing a flabby show. He pursues a notably subdued aesthetic, and lets the works breathe and interact.

Matias Faldbakken’s row of metal lockers in the crushing embrace of a set of heavy-duty straps makes for a striking introduction to the show, but it is the gentler likes of Silke Otto-Knapp’s shimmering figure-group paintings and Gedi Sibony’s ghostlike veiled shelf that linger in the memory. David Zink Yi’s porcelain squids chime nicely—because they do so obliquely—with Alina Szapocznikow’s black-and-white photographs of remodeled chewing-gum blobs. Best of all is “Read Like the Paper Group,” a series of videos by Patricia Esquivias in which mostly still images are paired with pithy spoken narratives that hinge on the oddities and vicissitudes of everyday life as lived and observed by the artist. Sometimes amusing, often tinged with melancholy, they embody Kracauer’s credo of “hesitant openness” as affectingly as anything here.

Image: View of "The Mass Ornamentr", 2010