Magazine article Artforum International

Blake Rayne: Blaffer Art Museum

Magazine article Artforum International

Blake Rayne: Blaffer Art Museum

Article excerpt


Blake Rayne


I have seen the work of Blake Rayne in bits and pieces over the years, and in each instance I have been puzzled by what I like to call the ugly ducklings nestled within his installations. By this I mean the one work out of a gaggle of beauties that seems to be deliberately, aggressively out of place. For example, the yogurt container-cum-projection screen perched on the windowsill of Campoli Presti's London gallery back in 2012 (Yogurt Cinema, 2014). In a mostly pristine exhibition, it stood out like a sore thumb.

Sometimes the clash makes sense. The decision to hang paintings next to their wooden transport crates worked marvelously in the 2008 exhibition "Dust of Suns" at Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York, reminding us, once again, that canvases are objects, too. I therefore waited with bated breath for Rayne's midcareer retrospective, curated by Javier Sanchez Martinez, in which the ugly ducklings, with the additional context that only such overviews can provide, would finally become glorious swans.

Or so I thought. Instead of finding peaceful resolution, Rayne's oeuvre seems at war with itself. Take, for example, the atrium-like entry gallery, the first of the show's two rooms, in which Rayne's well-regarded series of canvases that have been folded, sprayed, and sewn (in that order) are understandably highlighted. However, as if to slight their elegance, a gang of incompatible objects--a book of felt (A Line [Almanac], 2013), glasses on a wood table next to a plant in a cardboard box (Table of Contents, 2010), a plastic bottle (Untitled, 2016)--loiters at the center of the room. I suppose the two sets (paintings and things) share a readymade quality. But even so, their visual incongruity overshadows any sense of filiation.

The placement of works in the second room only accentuates the discord. A small squiggly red, white, and blue canvas, Untitled, 2012, neighbors five of Rayne's iconic wall works from the series "Cover Letter," 2010, featuring felt letter a's drooping off their canvases onto the floor. Since I don't think an homage to Brice Marden's "Cold Mountain" paintings or Robert Morris's antiforms is intended, I can only assume that the disjunction between pictorial and sculptural, smooth and textured, line and letter, is the goal here.

Everywhere you turn, unlike is pitted against unlike, most jarringly whenever one's gaze crosses a towering, eclectically composed mobile of T-shirts, 3-D letters, and a bicycle hanging in the middle of the room. …

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