Laws of Motion
I want to fuse the writing of life—the notion that all living things have their own stories, contexts, perspectives, and histories—with the study of life, which also now includes an embrace of nonhuman perspectives. —Anicka Yi
Gagosian is pleased to present Laws of Motion, an exhibition of works by Josh Kline, Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Rosemarie Trockel, Jeff Wall, and Anicka Yi. Laws of Motion debuted at Gagosian Hong Kong in November, and has since been expanded with additional works by Kline, Trockel, Wall, and Yi. Its title refers to Karl Marx’s application of scientific laws to systems of capital.
Forty years ago, the art of Koons, Noland, Trockel, and Wall merged strategies of commercial display and formalism, isolating inherent social archetypes and stereotypes. Laws of Motion begins with key artworks from the 1970s that responded to a world saturated in the aesthetics and language of advertising, exploiting its techniques while making visible its latent and subconscious pull.
Koons’s paradigmatic series The New examines themes of domestic use and hygienic order, employing industrial readymades such as vacuum cleaners stacked and isolated in gleaming museum vitrines. The built-in obsolescence of domestic tools and consumer products contrasts with their aspirational qualities, raising philosophical questions of newness and desire. While Noland’s assemblage of emptied beer bottles and a discarded mailbox conjures a potent image of American male delinquency, Trockel’s sculptures—electric burners mounted on the wall or placed on plinths—reduce or elevate a central symbol of domestic life to geometric abstraction, obliquely engaging a feminist discourse.
In the late 1970s, Wall began presenting photographs as light boxes, a format typically used for display advertising. Over the following decades, he created both epic and intimate images of the actions and accumulations of daily life. In Diagonal Composition (1993) and A wall in a former bakery (2003), Wall narrows in on banal and abject subject matter using formal harmony and rich chromatic detail.
With the onset of the digital age, the relationship between marketing, labor, and value has grown ever more symbiotic, just as the purity of art, media, and data becomes increasingly elusive. Recent works by Yi and Kline identify updated manifestations of the heady consumerism of the 1980s. Yi engages the politics and personal resonance of chemicals, bacteria, and other ambient matter, in order to create moments of disequilibrium that underscore gender inequality, environmental degradation, and institutional mechanisms of power and control. For Immigrant Caucus (2017), she distilled a number of olfactory elements into spray cans, asking, “How do we imagine that immigrants, or foreigners, smell?” If You Want To Tame It, Re-Wild It and A Thousand Leaves (both 2018) are wall-hung grids and boards covered in what resembles an organic growth: mold or fungus, as though a clinically defined area has been turned into a breeding ground, inadvertently becoming something like abstract painting. The surface of each work is interspersed with shelves or openings through which light, hardware, or intricate woven forms can be seen, giving a previously unperceived depth to the rectangular board. For Deep State (2017) Yi made light boxes from photographs of bacterial cultures, the intricate organic patterns frozen mid-bloom or decay.
Body parts, pharmaceuticals, and sanitizing products pervade Kline’s assemblages, installations, and videos, reflecting on the ways in which technology impacts humans. Riffing on familiar phrases, Shrugging it off and Sighs of the Times (both 2017) consist of monochromatic gray piles of rubble that suggest the potential consequences of automation and artificial intelligence on labor—namely, mass unemployment. In this sense, Kline’s postapocalyptic assemblages function as punctuation marks to the excesses of the 1980s.
By manipulating systems of production, marketing, and display in art within the gallery setting, this cross-generational exhibition probes the similarities between the logic of market production and formalism itself. Over the past four decades, as technology has evolved, artists have changed their approaches to it and to the societal upheaval it has effected. Yet, despite the changing mechanisms of consumption, the human relationships to object and product remain startlingly similar.