The Belgian Galerie Rodolphe Janssen is currently presenting a show focusing on the diverse output and extended vocabulary of The Still House Group collective of artists based in Red Hook, New York. A small, yet varied show, the show allows common thematic elements to jut out from vastly different aesthetics and media, showcasing the group’s common practice and shared techniques of production.
Based in New York City, this 6 year-old organization has made a name for itself through its active engendering of collective critique, while allowing each artist to stand on their own as a creative entity. Insisting on group participation in evaluation and development, each artist is offered a well-constructed feedback system that allows them to serve as part of a larger working whole while maintaining their own creative voice.
Interestingly enough, this technique gives rise to a tangible sort of groupthink, where operations of appropriation, juxtaposition and simulation are utilized in similar fashions but through different creative lenses. It’s almost as if the collective were mirroring post-digital models of production, each artist engaged in collaborative completion of each other’s work, while remaining tacitly uninvolved in the final presentation. This mutualism, while unseen, inflects the works on view with a strange sense of cohesion, buried just beneath the surface.
On repeated viewing, the works themselves slowly lock together in a peculiar fashion. Often utilizing materials and images of construction and urban grit,the work seems to in fact be focused on its own production, or rather, as pieces or materials as they fit into a larger body of productive work. It’s almost as if the work itself is aiming to mirror the somewhat disembodied, subterranean network of input and construction that these works are ultimately created by. Jack Greer’s paintings of linked chains, or Nick Darmstaedter’s playful reworking of housing installation (a la Ellsworth Kelly’s Chatworth Series), seem fully aware of their position as parts of a larger whole, each in debt to other parts of the assemblage.
The end result is a show that, much like The Still House Group itself, slowly oscillates between cohesive body and singular works, allowing the group’s practice of mutual support and promotion to work in miniature within the gallery itself. No work stands fully apart from the rest, but each is a world unto itself, offering a small look into the thematic variations and feedback loops of the group’s shared creation.
Offering a particularly compelling new model for artistic creation and promotion in the 21st century, The Still House Group is an intriguing study not only in the construction of a shared body of works, but also in the self-aware construction of the body itself, and how that awareness feeds back into the works on a broader scale. The show closes on August 31st.