Jessica Stockholder

Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, USA

Kitty litter and coffee mugs, painted fur and tyre scraps: the materials lists for Jessica Stockholder’s sculptures read like the home inventory of a mad packrat. For three decades, Stockholder has taken as provocation that cliché ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ – incorporating even plumbing into anarchic assemblages that resolve as astonishingly balanced compositions. Exuberantly colourful and formally promiscuous, her work is deliriously enjoyable to look at.

Stockholder’s ambitiously architectural show at Mitchell Innes & Nash, ‘The Guests All Crowded into the Dining Room’, features a selection of new works scattered around a wooden platform, sensuously curved to admit the gallery’s prominent support column, which ascends to a viewing balcony for a display of drawings mounted on geometric wall sections painted bright orange and pink. Several of the works continue Stockholder’s series of ‘Assists’, or sculptures that cannot stand up on their own. In Assist: Smoke and Mirrors (2016), two slender steel beams, supporting a cut of blue tarp and a mass of tangled copper wire, have been cinched to a lumpy beige sofa lounger by a bright green ratchet strap from the US Cargo Control hardware shop. The ‘Assist’ – the lounger – is interchangeable and not considered part of the work, though it felt like a wholly intentional, comic pairing with the sculpture’s airy, industrial materials. The term ‘assist’ will be familiar to football fans and, in light of the recent Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the sculptures reminded me of disabled athletes who, despite relying on prosthetics, often outmatch the grace and physical prowess of their non-disabled counterparts; see, for instance, how the heavy metal grille in Assist #4 (Carved Spaces) (2016) curls up towards the ceiling, like a gymnast on a pommel horse.  

jessica_stockholder_assist_smoke_and_mirrors_2016_unistrut_acrylic_paint_blue_tarp_copper_wire_plastic_parts_metal_parts_hardware_yellow_webbing_winch_244_x_91_x_76_cm._courtesy_the_artist_and_mitchell-innes_nash_new_york_

Jessica Stockholder, Assist: Smoke and Mirrors, 2016, unistrut, acrylic paint, blue tarp, copper wire, plastic parts, metal parts, hardware, yellow webbing, winch, 244 x 91 x 76 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

Jessica Stockholder, Assist: Smoke and Mirrors, 2016, unistrut, acrylic paint, blue tarp, copper wire, plastic parts, metal parts, hardware, yellow webbing, winch, 244 x 91 x 76 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York 

The ‘Assists’ are also nods to the supports of classical sculpture: recall the knotted trunk awkwardly glued to the right calf of the Apollo Belvedere or the creepy cherub dangling from the toga train of the Augustus of Prima Porta. Art history’s muscular marbles would crumble without these ungainly braces. Stockholder slyly upbraids the masculine pomposity of such sculptures by propping up her own with commonplace furniture: items that, as symbols of domesticity, can be both objects of affectionate care or anchors that arrest social and political mobility.

The works engage with art history on multiple levels. Security Detail (2016) consists of a satchel bag slathered in thick lilac oil paint, strung from steel cables on an open metal frame that, in turn, rests on a forlorn wooden footstool. One arm of this open frame, capped in a large red Lego brick, hovers over a wall-mounted panel painted a matching, fiery shade. ‘Kissing the wall’ (to borrow one of Stockholder’s favourite phrases), Security Detail refuses to break free from that fundamental flat support, cleverly commenting on sculpture’s shifting relationship to architecture since the classical era. This is neither a Renaissance bronze made for a frontally viewed tableau nor a fully freestanding sculpture. As Miwon Kwon has argued, Stockholder’s is an art ‘between the two-dimensional, pictorial flatness of painting and the three-dimensional spatiality and scale of architecture’. Stockholder has acknowledged this ‘confusion of boundary’; her work shows us how fun it can be to muck up the canon, with its dreary insistence on fixed categories. 

jessica_stockholder_the_guests_all_crowded_into_the_dining_room_2016_exhibition_view_mitchell-innes_nash_new_york._photograph_adam_reich

Jessica Stockholder, 'The Guests All Crowded Into the Dining Room', 2016, exhibition view, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Photograph: Adam Reich

Jessica Stockholder, 'The Guests All Crowded Into the Dining Room', 2016, exhibition view, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Photograph: Adam Reich

‘Collision’ might be more appropriate than ‘confusion’ for such carefully considered work and, on an art-historical collision course, things are bound to get messy. At the show’s climax, on the end of the scaffolding, the smallest sculpture rests on a plinth: a pile of scalloped shells, punctured through with copper wire, atop a stack of sky-blue ice cube trays, like eggs smashed in their carton. In Stockholder’s hands, the sloppy aftermath of a kitchen fumble feels as enduring as an ancient bronze. 

Evan Moffitt is assistant editor of frieze, based in New York, USA. 

Issue 183

First published in Issue 183

Nov - Dec 2016

Most Read

Ahead of ARCOMadrid this week, a guide to the best institutional shows in the city
A report commissioned by the museum claims Raicovich ‘misled’ the board; she disputes the investigation’s claims
In further news: Jef Geys (1934–2018); and Hirshhorn postpones Krzysztof Wodiczko projection after Florida shooting
If the city’s pivot to contemporary art was first realized by landmark construction, then what comes after might not...
Ignoring its faux-dissident title, this year's edition at the New Museum displays a repertoire that is folky, angry,...
An insight into royal aesthetics's double nature: Charles I’s tastes and habits emerge as never before at London’s...
In other news: Artforum responds to #NotSurprised call for boycott of the magazine; Maria Balshaw apologizes for...
At transmediale in Berlin, contesting exclusionary language from the alt-right to offshore finance
From Shanghai to Dubai, a new history charts the frontiers where underground scenes battle big business for electronic...
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, UK
Zihan Karim, Various Way of Departure, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Samdani Art Foundation
Can an alternative arts network, unmediated by the West's commercial capitals and burgeoning arts economies of China...
‘That moment, that smile’: collaborators of the filmmaker pay tribute to a force in California's film and music scenes...
In further news: We Are Not Surprised collective calls for boycott of Artforum, accuses it of 'empty politics'; Frida...
We Are Not Surprised group calls for the magazine to remove Knight Landesman as co-owner and withdraw move to dismiss...
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is both gorgeous and troubling in equal measure
With Zona Maco opening in the city today, a guide to the best exhibitions across the Mexican capital
The question at the heart of Manchester Art Gallery’s artwork removal: what are the risks when cultural programming...
In further news: Sonia Boyce explains removal of Manchester Art Gallery’s nude nymphs; Creative Scotland responds to...
Ahead of the India Art Fair running this weekend in the capital, a guide to the best shows to see around town
The gallery argues that the funding body is no longer supportive of institutions that maintain a principled refusal of...
The Dutch museum’s decision to remove a bust of its namesake is part of a wider reconsideration of colonial histories,...
At New York’s Metrograph, a diverse film programme addresses a ‘central problem’ of feminist filmmaking
Ronald Jones pays tribute to a rare critic, art historian, teacher and friend who coined the term Post-Minimalism
In further news: curators rally behind Laura Raicovich; Glasgow's Transmission Gallery responds to loss of Creative...
Nottingham Contemporary, UK
‘An artist in a proud and profound sense, whether he liked it or not’ – a tribute by Michael Bracewell
Ahead of a show at Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum, how the documentarian’s wandering gaze takes in China’s landscapes of...
In further news: Stedelijk explains why it cancelled Ettore Sottsass retrospective; US National Gallery of Art cancels...
With 11 of her works on show at the Musée d'Orsay, one of the most underrated artists in modern European history is...
Reopening after a two-year hiatus, London’s brutalist landmark is more than a match for the photographer’s blockbuster...
What the Google Arts & Culture app tells us about our selfie obsession
At a time of #metoo fearlessness, a collection of female critics interrogate their own fandom for music’s most...
A rare, in-depth interview with fashion designer Jil Sander

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018

frieze magazine

March 2018