For his most recent exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, artist Darren Bader continues his challenging and nuanced investigation around the concept of presentation, authorship and context, delving deep into the ready-made as a site for both critical examination and spiritual re-enervation.
Executed in collaboration with artists Michael E. Smith, Anca Munteanu Rimnic, and “a cast of thousands,” his new show is an explosion of materiality, filling the gallery with cluster upon cluster of objects. The space is filled with personal possessions, artworks, and other cast-off bits that seems to force each object into a contention with every other one on view. Chairs, bags, clumps of what appears to be hair, and other objects negotiate a space that seems to wed together cycles of labor with the languages of kitsch and commodity. Referred to as a walk-in still-life, its dynamic is that of a continued contention with the languages and narratives stemming from a work of art’s creation, and even, perhaps, the confusion that surges forth from a deep investment in an aesthetic practice.
While the readymade’s presence in the world of contemporary art is far from a rarity in the 21st, century, it’s quite shocking to consider how rarely its status has been challenged, investigated, or (as is sometimes the case with Bader’s work) pushed towards a sense of reinvention or reimagining. With Bader’s work, the readymade turns from a representative of a space outside the gallery, into an analog for modern art practice itself, a “conceptual fulcrum” as the gallery describes it, in which its relationship towards any reality outside the gallery is up for challenge and debate. Yet the artist does not lose site of the early criticality of the still-life, that of labor and the respective roles of artist and commodity laborer, particularly in terms of their increasing overlap in roles in the post-fordist expanse. Here, Bader is more interested in a ballooning notion of these various ideas, rather than seeking to cut them down or re-position the vitality of the ready-made.
What the viewer is left with, then is a sense of confusion that perhaps aims to move back towards the original conceptual drive of the ready-made art object, one by which the artist’s hand and that of others moves into a delicate, symbiotic relationship. But with Bader, the process is done in reverse. Rather than focus on single objects or single situations, all sites and vantage points are afforded equal credence. In the wake of the digital revolution, where the labor of sorting and processing information has been offloaded on the average user, this work makes the question of the object‘s role as visible and as important as it is confusing.
The show closes March 29th.
— D. Creahan
Darren Bader at Sadie Coles [Exhibition Page]