Erica Baum & Libby Rothfeld “AAa:Quien”
[Image: Erica Baum "Untitled (A Drip)" (1996) 20 x 24 in.]
This event has ended.
Bureau presents AAa:Quien, a two-person exhibition featuring Erica Baum and Libby Rothfeld that relates the instability of language with the social world. Against the backdrop of our political moment, both artists intimate the shifting nature and partial legibility of language through material and image, rendering a sense of melancholy over absent truths and selves.
Baum’s seminal Blackboards (1994-6) photographs taken after hours in Yale University classrooms capture the erasure of language in the space of knowledge production. In each photograph, wiped chalk lines and phantasmic word fragments appear at the abyss of abstraction. Taking language as the core of her project, Baum presents photography as a craft that records signifying inscriptions as images. This work situates the trace of writing in relation to the visual “graph” of photography. With Blackboards, the effect of presenting an image of language brings attention to the radical absence inherent in representation — the negation of fixed meaning underlying post-structuralist thought. If language under erasure (sous rapture) is the infinite deferral of meaning, the hangover of deconstruction continues with bleary possibility and anxious beauty.
Rothfeld extends this discourse through sculptural objects while connecting it to an aesthetic experience of a social world in which language fails to express unmediated reality, including the perceived “true” feelings of a subject. The checkered beige tile element in both her freestanding Option and Label wall sculptures maps a social field in which objects are proxies for players in a game of relation much like the game of chess. However, Rothfeld presents a dehierarchalized and extruded field of objects — wine bottles, shot glasses, porcelain cups, potatoes — in which each element contends with its own semiosphere while fatefully bounded together on the same sculptural plane.
You know that drink alone at an unfamiliar bar, staring at the mottled tiles and dirty dishrag as you avoid your phone and the bartender. This drink always lasts longer than you want.
Taking the form of enlarged wine labels set on tiled ledges, the allegorical Label sculptures harken the Dionysian mysteries of life by drawing parallels between the slippage of language and unconscious self abandon and loss. The images on the notional wine labels are of solitary moments taken by Rothfeld layered with abstract lost-and-found notices and iconography of European antiquity. Government health warnings about alcohol consumption on the Labelsstand in contrast to shopping baskets of sprouting raw potatoes on the Option sculptures, completing the scene of decay and renewal of life.
The bas reliefs of blank faces set in the sculptures remind us that Dionysus is also the god of masks and the patron of the tragic arts whose possessed ancient rituals involved pouring wine into the earth for a bountiful harvest — to produce more wine for more parties. Behold the enervated bacchanal and quiet shrine of infinite deferral.
— Howie Chen
Erica Baum (b. 1961, New York; lives and works in New York) received her BA from Barnard College and her MFA from Yale University. Recent museum exhibitions include Photo-Poetics: An Anthology, Kunsthalle Berlin and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2015; Reconstructions: Recent Photographs and Video from the Met Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015; After Dark, Mamco, Geneva, 2015; and the 30th Bienal de São Paulo: The Imminence of Poetics, São Paulo, Brazil, 2012. Recent solo exhibitions include The Following Information, Bureau, New York, 2016; Stanzas, Galerie Crevecoeur, Paris, 2015; The Paper Nautilus, Bureau, New York, 2014; Erica Baum, Kunstverein Langenhagen, Langenhagen, Germany, 2013; and Naked Eye Anthology, Bureau, New York, 2012. Her work is held in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris; FRAC Ile de France, Paris; and the Yale Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut. In 2017 Baum will be featured in a two-person exhibition with Ajit Chauhan at SVIT, Prague; Strange Days, Le Plateau, Frac Île-de-France, Paris; and Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin, The Jewish Museum, New York.
Libby Rothfeld (b. 1990, New Brunswick, New Jersey; lives and works in New York) received her BFA from New York University. Recent solo exhibitions include Good To Think With, Good To Think Against, Kimberly-Klark, New York, 2015; and Libby Rothfeld, First Continent, Baltimore, 2015. Group exhibitions include Boil the Ocean, Bodega, New York; Daydream 2013, Canada, New York; Welcome to Earth, The Story So Far…, Hide-Tide Gallery, Philadelphia; and 2000, Sydney-Sydney, Sydney, Australia, all 2016. Rothfeld has had residencies at Siliqoon, Milan, Italy, 2016; Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, New York, 2016; and Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York, 2013. Her work has been featured in Artforum, Sex Magazine, ArtViewer and Sorry Archive.