Magazine article Artforum International

Mark Hagen

Magazine article Artforum International

Mark Hagen

Article excerpt

CHINA ART OBJECTS GALLERIES

"Paleo Dict," the title of Mark Hagen's second solo exhibition at China Art Objects, plays on notions of primitivism from a very up-to-date perspective whereby only that which is most remote from the present moment holds out any promise of health. But in attempting to go back to basics, to ancient grains and bygone methods of cultivation and food preparation, we find ourselves all the more estranged from the natural world that we've graduallyruined. One registered the fraught relationship between our environment and ourselves immediately upon entering the gallery, thanks to the masking of the skylights with a film that split the sun's increasingly punishing rays into spectrums of color, at once sublime and ominous, that traveled through the space over the course of the day.

Dominating the gallery's first room was The Alhambra, 2013, a massive, canopy-like construction that occupied an uneasy zone between abstract sculpture and architectural intervention. This work is pieced together from regular interlocking units according to the endlessly adaptable logic of the space-frame templates developed by speculative hippie-era figures such as Yona Friedman and Constant in the aim of democratizing the architecture of dwellings. Today, however, the idea that such products of industrial standardization could possibly serve the expressive desires of the individual consumer seems somewhat dubious. Appropriately, then, the sleekly modular Alhambra greeted visitors in much the same manner as the frivolous decor of the hotel lobby or corporate boardroom, while simultaneously evoking the utterly unyielding post-and-lintel structure of prehistoric sites like Stonehenge.

Three smaller space-frame pillars, each titled Ramada, 2013, occupied the gallery's second room. Poised somewhere between Constructivist kiosks and cell-phone towers, these were partly sprayed with a rough, gray-brown substance consisting mainly of cement and pulped paper, a recipe printed in the pages of the Y2K Survival Handbook--which was itself thrown into the mix--as a home-construction tip for end times. Once this coating is applied to the pristine lines of the underlying aluminum-and-steel skeleton, its excremental quality is thrown into sharp relief, and the tension between these two elements reflects Hagen's abiding interest in the often abysmal limits of techno-scientific positivism right alongside those of its aesthetic equivalents. …

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