Magazine article Artforum International

Pieter Schoolwerth: Miguel Abreu Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Pieter Schoolwerth: Miguel Abreu Gallery

Article excerpt

Pieter Schoolwerth

MIGUEL ABREU GALLERY

Pieter Schoolwerth knows how to paint. In recent years, he turned his hand to no less daunting a task than the subjective reinvention of old-master iconography, which he deftly reconstituted via digital and analog overlays and abstractions--a contemporary remastering, if you will, of the compositional mainstays of Western figuration. Yet for his latest show, Schoolwerth put his considerable skills in the service of a throwaway gag: The press release informed us that while using a cheap, ineffectual vacuum cleaner, the artist blurted out, "This vacuum sucks!" and was so amused by the unintended wordplay, he built an exhibition around it.

Despite its origins in that humble parapraxis, the show, titled "Your Vacuum Blows, which Sucks," was hugely ambitious in scope and scale, comprising a meandering thirty-nine-minute video (produced in collaboration with Alexandra Lerman and screened at Miguel Abreu's Orchard Street space) and (at the gallery's capacious Eldridge Street location) a mazelike concatenation of walls, both fixed and demountable, supporting, framing, or containing paintings, collages, and an assortment of readymades consisting mostly of hardware and household appliances--electrical cable, vacuum cleaners, a leaf blower, a sewing machine, a ladder, and so on. Bound together by a compelling formal consonance within and between elements, the multifarious components hinged and segued on double meanings and associative leaps.

Such semantic shape-shifting was especially apparent in the video, whose psychedelic, quasi-quotidian narrative is propelled by comical misapprehensions and slips of the tongue. At Eldridge Street, various figures and props appearing in the video were re-presented as subject matter for two-dimensional works or as store-bought sculptural objects, all adroitly hung or positioned on walls and floors of adjoining rooms, some of which were merely implied by the careful placement of stud-and-plywood partitions. Many of these walls were painted rich, seductive colors and bore large rectangular apertures--of a scale proportionate to the paintings--framing cryptic configurations of objects and providing views onto other installations. …

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