Shotgun Reviews

The Supreme Rifts… A Measured Propinquity at Marian Goodman Gallery

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Andreas Petrossiants reviews The Supreme Rifts… A Measured Propinquity at Marian Goodman Gallery in London.

Niele Toroni. Andata E Ritorno (orange), 1991; installation of four canvases, easels – imprints of No 50 brush repeated at regular distances 30 cm; 39 1/2 x 39 1/2 x 1 1/8 in (each). Courtesy  of the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, London. Photo: Thierry Bal.

Niele Toroni. Andata E Ritorno (Orange), 1991; installation of four canvases, easels, imprints of No. 50 brush repeated at regular distances; 39 1/2 x 39 1/2 x 1 1/8 in. each. Courtesy of the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, London. Photo: Thierry Bal.

In Michael Newman’s poetic text accompanying the exhibition The Supreme Rifts… A Measured Propinquity at London’s Marian Goodman Gallery, he attempts to justify the grouping of five (exclusively male) artists that, to this author, initially seemed based purely on art-world pragmatism and economic interest: Sol LeWitt, Gabriel Orozco, Gerhard Richter, Ettore Spalletti, and Niele Toroni. Might this layering of grids, cubes, and chromatic forms—displayed (for the umpteenth time) with plenty of prime white-cube space left for phenomenological shuffling—be supreme, an adjective that Newman borrows from a poem to describe the “rifts,” or spaces of discourse opened between the different works? Can it still be so, especially when so many of the works were produced last year?[1] Newman’s stream-of-consciousness explanation of the exhibition’s title does little to dissuade.

Newman’s quasi-exegetic exploration of the arrangement of LeWitt’s “rules,” Orozco’s “combination of the machinic and the handmade,” Richter’s color strips, Spalletti’s chromatic “depth,” and Toroni’s signature brush imprints leads him to consult Stéphan Mallarmé. Just as Marcel Broodthaers had declared Mallarmé to be the source of all contemporary art, Newman remarks that Mallarmé is the “key to almost everything that has happened in art since he wrote.”[2] Mallarmé’s seminal poem “Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard” famously utilized white space, making a “spatialized poem.” With this, Broodthaers claimed, Mallarmé invented modern space. Newman instead invokes Mallarme’s “Mystery in Literature,” and from there culls the phrase “the supreme rifts,” in his view describing the physical and immaterial spaces of argumentation between the arranged works. What about a measured propinquity, implying a more-than-coincidental proximity? Newman claims that there exists an essential reason why these works should be shown in this way.

Such a quest for a justified propinquity ultimately belies a potentially more convincing result of the works’ positioning: an evocation of the tension between physical materiality and process-based strategies, two different poles of production that many of the works navigate between. For example, Toroni’s characteristic brush imprints—shown with the group BMPT (Buren, Mosset, Paramentier and Toroni) in 1967-68—have clearly lost their political verve.[3] However, the contemporary reactivation of this cool Conceptual gesture makes underlying pencil-drawn X’s, marking the points where brush had touched canvas resolutely visible: an evocation of their material construction. So too with LeWitt’s “sloppy” cube paintings: The presence of the artist’s “hand” is not lost. After passing paintings by the older postwar titans, Orozco’s Blackboard Drawing works (1998) show that the traditions of “first generation” conceptual artists, themselves informed by Minimalist aesthetics, have not been forgotten. Such drawings—in sharp contrast to Orozco’s earlier poetic work—retain clean geometry and a precise process. Perhaps this arrangement can, in fact, be supreme—or affectively contentious—if we follow the pertinent discourses between different generations.

The Supreme Rifts… A Measured Propinquity will be on view through April 8, 2017.

Andreas Petrossiants is completing his MA in art history at Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He is currently writing on the work of “second generation” institutional critique artists, and their inscription of labor within research-based practices.

[1] The short answer is no.
[2] Marian Goodman Gallery, The Supreme Rifts…A Measured Propinquity, Gallery Press Release, London,
[3] Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “The Group That Was (Not) One: Daniel Buren and BMPT,” Artforum (May 2008).