This summer at Sadie Coles HQ in London, the humorous and incisive work of artist Darren Bader comes back to the UK for his fourth solo show with the gallery. Through a range of media – sculpture, Augmented Reality (AR), mural, photography and posters – the artist continues to distill and defamiliarize the concept of the ‘art object’.
Bader’s latest works annex digital technology to the categories of sculpture and assemblage. 6 Sides of Scott Mendes, is an oak cube, echoing a gaming die, with a QR code embedded on each face. Using a smartphone (iOS only in this instance), viewers may scan a code to launch AR characters, including a human charging station and giant nail clippers on wheels. These digital sculptures can be transplanted into the user’s physical whereabouts via the screen of the smart device.
Shown in parallel, Mundi 56 is a sculptural assemblage of a hybridised turtle topped by Ruscha-like signage promoting Taco Tuesday; in place of a head and tail are lengths of rope, attached respectively to a helium balloon and to a metal table (itself supporting a massive cob of corn). This immobile assemblage, infused with allusions to Pop Art and the readymade, is a proxy for an AR sculpture similar to those of the oak die. By activating a printed QR code, viewers of the static sculpture can again bring its animated form into their own surroundings, using their smartphone.
A group of two-dimensional works extend the wry non sequiturs, the absurdist logic, of Bader’s sculptures. A wall painting, C-print and poster transpose the visual and verbal allusiveness of his wider practice into a sequence of graphic ‘variations’ that paraphrase the styles of other artists. One image – rendered in a sparing, linear, ‘Pop’ idiom – could read as a parody of overdetermined interpretation, with pairs of hands holding torches, eyeballs and binoculars, but with one rogue pair of hands sprinkling hot sauce on the binocular eyepieces. The motif of twin forearms originated in Bader’s Mendes Mundi project, an AR spectacle conceived for the 2019 Venice Biennale, whose virtual characters were imagined to be the creations of Scott Mendes, an itinerant artist known to self-inject local pigeon excrement in pursuit of oneiric muses.
Bader’s work seems to delve constantly into the notion of the space between conception and reception, making light of both artist and viewer on either end, and instead holding up the middle as the perfect place to sow confusion and offer new illumination.
The show closes August 21.
– D. Creahan
Darren Bader at Sadie Coles HQ [Exhibition Site]