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Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Kennedy Yanko, Reginald O’Neal, and Cajsa von Zeipel

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Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller
Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller
Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller
Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller
Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller
Art

Bjarne Melgaard’s Ignorant Transparencies

By Catie Keck

October 3, 2013

“You are a monster sometimes,” reads bold white type on the bottom third of a mural in the entryway of Gavin Brown’s enterprise. The scene depicts a woman in a long coat nearing the viewer by way of a large foyer. Her face is slightly blurred, just out of focus as she approaches. The work and its accompanying subtitle is a scene from the 2012 French film Amour. The painting is soft but insidious, and further riled by three opposing walls in muted tones with silhouettes of circling shark fins. The mural in the gallery’s main space is offset slightly by a large sculpture of a pink panther in a top hat puffing a crack pipe, bandages adorning his arms.

The walls and sculpture foreshadow two uncanny scenes in the rooms ahead. The art is that of Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, whose installations are notorious for excusing the conventional “don’t touch the art” mantra in favor of interactive showcases. Titled “Ignorant Transparencies,” this exhibition is his first solo for Gavin Brown’s enterprise. His installation earlier this year at Frieze Art Fair was among the more buzzed about exhibits. Fair-goers were encouraged to kick off their shoes and crawl around in a pit of plush blankets in effervescent color schemes. Why? As the Times noted, Melgaard is an artist “who never met a taboo he didn’t like breaking.”

Open Gallery

Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller

Through the entryway and into the second of the gallery’s spaces, a cluster of displays and sculpture work litter the main space of the room. A second hand-painted movie still stretches along the rightmost wall, this one depicting an elderly woman refusing to drink the water that an outstretched arm is coaxing her to ingest. “Fear doesn’t eat the soul if you don’t have one,” reads the text at the bottom.

The room is packed with towers of what appear to be discarded items of a mystifying variety. Large, vibrant tapestries of stripped men compliment centerpieces of equal obscurity. The show borders on over-stimulating and claustrophobic, like an acid trip in a room teeming with discarded, disfigured toys. This show, his seventh in two years, is seemingly an exploration of how much shit an artist can throw into a room while still maintaining the pretense of fine art. Whether Melgaard is a prodigy or simply having one over on the art world is yet to be seen.

Open Gallery

Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo by Thomas Mueller

“This is his darkest exhibition yet,” muses an onlooker to his counterpart as they navigate the crowded space. A walkway zigzags into the third room. This one boasts the most impactful of the three walls. “Want the same as you,” it reads. A man’s worn face tenses, his eyes tight and sinking as he strains with the force that he uses to push a pillow over protuberance beneath it. This room, as with the first and second, is abundant with imagery of male genitalia and embellished panther portraits. And somehow, beyond the allusion of melancholy exuded by the gallery’s walls, the exhibition exudes a mischievousness that only Melgaard can deliver.

Bjarne MelgaardFriezeGavin Brown's enterpriseNew York

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