Reijiro Wada | Ariel Schlesinger
SCAI The Bathhouse; 27 January to 25 February
Eight artworks occupy a square gallery space, set out in iambic rhythm, delivering poetry in materials and ideas. Brass, polished steel and glass sit in equilibrious partnership with brandy, citric acid and bone. Time is both accelerated and accumulated in meditations on entropy and transition as candles, rotting fruit, condensation, rust and patina thread their way across the artworks and establish a temporal network that recedes and protracts in an otherwise singular moment, wits sunlight filtering in through the gallery’s ceiling and glass entrance.
Featuring work by two Berlin-based artists originating from Japan and Israel, respectively – Reijiro Wada and Ariel Schlesinger – this is yet another exhibition of two artists I’ve come across in the last week that has been considerately curated with a finely balanced precision. For this show, there is a suite of concomitant thematics, materials and intensities that weave throughout the artworks and cohesively knit together a solid stanza of phrases and breaths.
The measured distribution of artworks in the space, cadenced to the point of an almost authoritarian even-handedness, works to reinforce the rabid temporalities in the show. A photo of a lit-candle balanced on two knives and sculpture consisting of a gas jet-flame aimed at the bottle that fuels its heat are the most agitated examples of this timeliness. It’s as if you can hear the ticking clock of impending collapse and explosion echoing in the silent gallery atmosphere. Tick, tick, tick … artwork, pause, artwork, pause.
The condensation building on the inside glass panels of two large wall sculptures and the oxidised green streaks running across a large panoramic brass panel work also speak to this timeliness. All three works are by Wada and all bring to mind moments of contemplation afforded by looking upon expanses of the environment beyond our immediate viewpoint.
A human skull, smashed into pieces and re-glued back together inside out, attests to the terrifying inevitability that comes with the passing of time. This piece sits perfectly with the large panoramic brass pAbel, riffing on historical artworks that reference death and time through the imagery of skulls and decaying fruit. The patina on the brass has been achieved by throwing fruit against it and allowing the citric acids to eat away at the metal over time. The spatially inverted skull drags internal rumination into the open air and casts human contemplation into the ambient atmosphere.
Two of the architecturally and landscape oriented wall sculptures particularly help to punctuate a conceptual lateral space beyond the gallery’s cubic structure. Both are like apertures, double-glazed glass panels encased in metal frames. One more like a door, which has red wine poured into the glass; and the other more like a window, which has brandy poured in. Both liquids fill to halfway, leaving carbon dioxide gas and condensation to occupy the other. They are minimalist in nature and associate with the systems aesthetic of early Hans Haacke works, cycling back connections to the cause-and-effect orientation of Schlesinger’s destructive quandaries.
On a raised wooden platform to one side of the gallery sit two additional works: a wooden pole with a measuring tape adhered to it; and a framed photograph with a pierced and cracked glass panel. This latter work is self-reflexive, with the photograph being an image of the front glass panel in its apparently original location as a window. The window now having been extricated and made into the protective front panel of the framed photograph of itself. It is humorous, like all of Schlesinger’s works, but with an acute wit that slices through layers of insight and opens windows into expanded thought. The wooden pole is aged and the measuring tape is 174cm. It’s impossible not to think of average human height, organic decay and the fact that the pole is leaning against the wall. With both works there is past time, transference of utility and a reflexive inward echo that also spirals itself outward in pulses of recognition and ambiguity.
Sitting with this show in the space of the gallery was like being surrounded by a centrifugal soundwave that encircled the room in rotations and reversals. Displayed in a circular trajectory around the perimetre, one could stand in the middle and feel as if you were at the epicentre of perspective. But with every step out of the centre you became a roving nodal point that amplified more specific characteristics the closer you moved to particular works, or adjacent pairings and most notably, into the spaces between works where invisible dialogues charged the air and inculcated you as a necessary additional presence. These are beautiful works that hold time and drive open space, both conceptually and materially. And they have been most thoughtfully curated into a most pleasing composition.