Glyphs, Otherworlds and the David Hockney Steamer: American Medium at NEWD

June 3, 2014 | Marina Galperina

American Medium gallery took part in the NEWD Art Show over the weekend. It was a particularly strong selection of work, even if it wasn’t surrounded by the generally beige painterly abyss that is the Bushwick Open Studios sprawl.

The highlight of American Medium’s booth is Brenna Murphy’s glyph~garland resonator sculpture, dominating with bright plexiglass and wood objects blooming out of a reflective, coffin-sized slab. It is both geometrically rigid and organically rounded. Brenna Murphy described her process “of designing and arranging shapes” as “a form of meditation,” an engagement with “the structure of reality,” “accessing states of pattern consciousness,” and “molding my mental pathways toward vibrational sensitivity.”

Along with high definition matte prints and the sculptural installations, Murphy’s patterns of fractal-esque and vaguely Arabic shapes make up her detailed digital environments. They appear as partially translucent lattice structures and video works. They’re even used in the 3D-printed musical instruments for her collaborative sound/visual project MSHR with Birch Cooper. There aren’t many bodies of work that feel so otherwordly, so simultaneously complex and instinctual, so consistently grounded in their own reality over so many mediums.

MSHR’s sonic sculptures in “Liquid Hand” at Upfor, Portland with Oregon Painting Society

Another highlight is Jon Rafman’s David Hockney Steamer, Clothing Rack, and Shirt. Previously exhibited in Rafman’s “MMXII BNPJ show in a loft near Union Square — American Medium’s temporary location before they settled in the permanent gallery space in Bedford-Stuyvesant — the work is a cross-breed, “a deliberation between a consumer object and a canonized painting.” Hockney’s highly hyped A Bigger Splash (1967) replaces a Hawaiian print on the cotton shirts, with a matching steamer to match.

I’ve never been a fan of Hockney’s work, but it’s more pleasing in being a patterned skin than as the original coveted object. In its natural environment, the installation was surrounded by several motorcycles covered in the patterns of other contemporary cultural artifacts. One was painted in the Malevich’s style (black). There was also a suspended Yves Klein Jet-Ski (in Yves Klein blue). There’s a Russian doll effect in these constructions: The Suprematist ideals of Malevich represented in his absolute squares, graphed onto a commercial transportation vessel like a sort of a conceptual wrapper, playing on the tension between different kinds of luxury objects, then, placed inside a gallery space where its “art object”-ness is reinforced or perhaps, poised to be questioned. The David Hockney Steamer, Clothing Rack, and Shirt achieves a similar effect at NEWD, particularly since it was wheeled into a space where I think I might have raved once. A compact punch disassociating planes, bright hues all over.

American Medium is currently showing Ann Hirsch, a video and performance artist who has recently branched out to painting, still tethered to a theme of early adolescent sexuality. Very excited to see what they do later this summer. (Photos: Marina Galperina/ANIMALNewYork)