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Nick Mauss & Ken Okiishi

09/08 2014 – 27/08 2014


Ken Okiishi & Nick Mauss have been working together since they met in art school (The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York) in 1998. Their collaborative works emerge from a continuous dialogue they have while working as individual artists as well. The artworks materialize – often at the invitation of an exhibition venue to realize a project – as the ephemeral and constantly shifting private conversation is pushed out into physical form in the space. The texture of the crisis, of a hesitation at making visible the emotional and theoretical density of private thoughts, is forced out, even as the works produce a short-circuiting of sources and materials that the viewers may think they already understand. Experience itself becomes estranged. 

For their exhibition at Mendes Wood DM, Mauss and Okiishi are exhibiting two new collaborative works, developed while in residence in São Paulo, set in tension with works that maintain individual signatures. This is the first time they will be exhibiting collaborative and individual works in the same space; they hope that this disturbs even further the cognitive problem of understanding how forms and materials gain shape and attach/detach from various networks of images, materials, objects and subjects. 

The work in the front space, After Depuis (Fill), 2014, activates the floor as if objects in a pattern can be set to fill a physical space in the way that they can on a screen. This virtuality of real objects is set against the physicality of real life, as the three-dimensional fill becomes increasingly disrupted by visitors trying to navigate this perplexing fill of spoons and concrete eggs. This object-image emerged as a flash of memory of a work that Mauss & Okiishi had made at some point in the past, but in materials and forms shifted to arrive in the warehouse setting; memory arrives in physical forms in a way that can make the network-synching that is so often demanded of bodies and objects in an overly connected world seem uncanny.

Set in tension with this field of object-memories that hover on the edge of physicality and screen-presence, are new works from Ken Okiishi's much celebrated series, gesture/data (2013-ongoing). Okiishi was excited to find a brand of television in Brazil that comes in a white color. This allowed him to expand the notion of the TV as readymade canvas in terms of color and levels of transparency/opacity. Working with Chroma Video Paint (normally used in film video productions to knock out and reinsert backgrounds), Okiishi has developed in his past work a digital void that becomes a material one: not as a temporary technical way of filming in order to create a realistic or thrilling substitute (as in action movies), but as a suspended state of vacuum. In the works from the series exhibited here, he has expanded on this doubled void of Chroma Video Paint on the screen and the blue void of no signal (videoed from the CRT screen, and then compressed into a jaggy spray of pixels in mp4) on-screen at the same time, with blips of random TV taken while watching TV while in residence in Brazil emerging in various works. 

In the back space, the fill of the spoons runs against a strange combination of materials seen while walking around in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – and then transformed in the head and in conversation by Mauss & Okiishi, as if the world were as mutable as a rough photoshop collage. Or as if a nightmare has suddenly crawled across the floor. In Total Nightmare, 2014, a bright fuchsia sheet of plywood is met against a black weed plant seen while admiring the fantastical name of a residential building, Henri Matisse, while the Chroma Blue Video Paint from the front room covers the aggregate of material and a laser jitters patterns onto the whole scene. It is as if the materials of the screen itself have shifted into distinctly other materials all suspended, on a sea of spoons, with plants dying of thirst. This is set in tension with a work from a series that Mauss first exhibited in Japan that developed into his legendary first exhibition at 303 Gallery in NY. Mauss, who works very slowly and deliberately, as if releasing artworks into the world is both a painful and essential process–presents one sole work, hovering in open space. Made with aluminum leaf on paint, this work changes dramatically based on viewing angle, proximity, and time of day. In this way, it acts as a materialization of thoughts at the back of the mind before they find words before they are released from their difficult imbrications.

Okiishi & Mauss' past collaborative exhibitions include One Season in Hell, Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York, 2007 and MD 72, Berlin, 2008; A Fair to Meddling Story, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, 2007; and in 2012, Okiishi & Mauss curated the White Columns Annual at White Columns, New York. Their books include A Fair to Meddling Story, JRP Ringier; and One Season in Hell, Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York. One Season in Hell was also reprinted this year by the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne and Mousse Publishing.

Ken Okiishi (born 1978, Ames, Iowa) has recently had solo exhibitions at venues including Reena Spaulings, New York; the MIT List Visual Arts Center; the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard Center for Curatorial Studies; MD 72, Berlin; Mathew, Berlin; and Pilar Corrias, London. He is currently working on a project at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, that will open in October of this year.

Okiishi was featured in the Whitney Biennial 2014 and Based in Berlin 2011; and has been in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Artists Space, New York; White Columns, New York; Museum Fridericianum, Kassel; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria; ICA Philadelphia; Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair, London; Greene Naftali, New York; Bortolami, New York; GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy; Peep-hole, Milan; Herald Street, London; Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw; Camden Arts Center, London; Broadway 1602, New York; and American Fine Arts, New York. Okiishi writes regularly for Artforum, and the first in-depth monographic study of his work, The Very Quick of the Word, was just published by Sternberg Press.

Okiishi's work is in public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. 

Nick Mauss (born 1980, New York, NY) has recently had solo exhibitions at venues including 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Neu and MD 72, Berlin; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; Fiorucci Art Trust, London; Indipendenza Studio, Rome. He produced a new work for this year's Unlimited at Art Basel, Basel. His work is currently on view in Portraits d'Interieurs, Nouveau Musee National de Monaco. He will premiere a new work – a ballet – at Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair, London in October of this year. 

Mauss was featured in the Whitney Biennial 2012 and Greater New York 2010, MoMA PS1; and has been in numerous group exhibitions at venues including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Artists Space, New York; David Zwirner, New York; Kunsthaus Bregenz; Mathew, Berlin; The Walker Art Center; Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin; Kunsthalle Zurich; Kunsthalle Basel; The Hessel Museum of Art, Bard Center for Curatorial Studies; Broadway 1602, New York; Greene Naftali, New York; Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; Le Magazin, Grenoble; and American Fine Arts, New York. His curatorial projects include Bloodflames III, Alex Zachary, New York; Crystal Flowers, Mathew, Berlin; Between the Lines, Hotel Chelsea, New York; and Volcano Extravaganza, co-curated with Milovan Farronato (director of the Fiorucci Art Trust), Stromboli, Aeolian Islands. 

Mauss writes regularly for Artforum, and his books include Geschenkpapiere (Walther Koenig, London), Come and Interrupt Me (Midway Contemporary, Minneapolis), Inversions (Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen). His essay Whose Sleeves? was published as Peep-hole Sheet #14 by Mousse Publishing. Mauss’ work is in public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. 

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