LYNCH THAM CON/TEXT
Wednesday, 8 January – Sunday, 16 February 2014
Opening Reception: Wednesday, 8 January, 6 – 8pm
175 Rivington Street, New York, NY
The exhibition includes works by Joe Amrhein, Carl Andre, Xu Bing, Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, Jacob El Hanani, Lee Etheredge IV, Carlo Ferraris, Wenda Gu, Mona Hatoum, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, Shirin Neshat, Joshua Neustein, William Pope. L, Robert Ryman, and Marina Temkina.
Translation by Joe Amrhein opens Saturday, January 14th from 11am-9pm as the first show at Jochen Hempel Gallery. The show will be up until February 26th, 2012.
[…]Enter Joe Amrhein, founder, as most of you know, of the fabulous Pierogi gallery, longtime pioneer of the Williamsburg arts scene, all-around beloved guy, and a brilliant artist who puts real, meaty substance into that eternally misty ideal, the “artist-run-gallery.” If we are to believe his story, young Joe spent part of his early adulthood in Southern California as a sign painter, crouched in front of store windows and climbing scaffolds to detail letters and words and phrases for money, the profits of which he later plowed back into modest abstractions on canvas. (These, I am tempted to believe, riffed on the twin poles represented by the artists Richard Diebenkorn and John MacCracken, Californians who captured, respectively, the natural light and unnatural slickness of the Golden State, though I have no actual evidence to this effect, since Joe is remarkably shut-mouthed about his hippie days.)
After his move to New York, Joe wandered a few years in the wilderness of the Manhattan art world, founded the well- timed Pierogi (which, as initiates well know, was originally dubbed Pierogi 2000), held an exhibition of his abstractions at Earl McGrath Gallery, and finally found his life’s artistic metier where he least expected it—right in front of his nose. A method that contained his ambitious ideas about painting and conceptualism within a set of limited but terrifically economic formal strictures, Joe’s “discovery” turned out to be a fabulous vehicle for his disciplined, ambitious and preternaturally youthful energies. Taking his cue from Robert Smithson’s notion that “writing on art replaces presence by absence by substituting the abstraction of language for the real thing,” Amrhein returned to the sign painting of his early days, except this time to genuinely creative and original effect. […]
It’s easy to poke fun at the jargon that clogs the channels of art criticism. Phrases like “a nihilistic tease” and “pre-postmodernist cool” invite snickers. It’s harder to do what Joe Amrhein does, to play into and feed off of that insular artspeak at the same time, to be wry and not just disgruntled, to construct something delectable from the intellectual debris.
Amrhein worked as a sign painter in the ’70s and ’80s, and has retained that trade’s emphasis on bold clarity to gently mock the obfuscatory tendencies of art writing, and the limitations of verbal communication in general. In the mostly new works in his thoroughly enjoyable show at Another Year in L.A., he paints in vivid enamel on translucent Mylar one letter, word or phrase per strip, then layers or interweaves the strips in various configurations. Some pieces, like “Kitsch,” are quite legible, a drumbeat progression of words read from top to bottom, back to front: “Little More Than Testosterone-Driven Post-Adolescent Derivative Kitsch.” In other works, illegibility is part of the point and the visual humor. Among the dozens of descriptive phrases in German and English in “Detailfülle” is “Freudian,” hiding in plain sight behind the others in large gold-leaf letters, not far from “Lucidity,” similarly obscured.
Droll, early text paintings by John Baldessari come to mind, as do the language works of Lawrence Weiner and Jack Pierson, as well as the clever verbal subversions of Tauba Auerbach. Amrhein’s lettering is crisp and vivid, and by using fonts familiar from signs touting special promotions and declarations of quality, he infuses the work with a vaguely upbeat positivity. The alphabet is a visual wonderland, as these pieces attest, and the building blocks of a spectacular and doomed tower of babble.
— Leah Ollman
Another Year in L.A., Pacific Design Center, Suite B267, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 223-4000, through July 29. www.anotheryearinla.com/