‘Neither.’

Mendes Wood DM, Brussels, Belgium

By and

The inaugural exhibition at the Brussels branch of Brazilian gallery Mendes Wood DM is a group effort. A partnership with curator Carolyn Drake, who also runs the non-profit space A Tale of a Tub in Rotterdam, the new venture already has the air of an enterprise that values collaboration and experimentation. Its first show, ‘Neither.’, is curated by Fernanda Brenner, director of the independent art centre
Pivô in São Paulo. 

mwdm_neither_033.jpg

‘Neither’, 2017, installation view, Mendes Wood DM, Brussels. Courtesy: Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York

Brenner has installed works by 47 artists throughout the four rooms of the gallery, which occupies a house built by Belgian art deco architect Adrien Blomme in the Sablon area of Brussels. Hung by a bay window is a small painting by Brazilian artist Patricia Leite depictinga colonial-style church, its modesty striking in contrast to the grandeur of the 15th-century gothic church visible through the window across the street. In the same room, slabs of sandstone appear to hover on the floor in a deconstructed grid. On one of them rests a felt bowl, its interior coated with sand, apparently on the verge of rolling over and spilling its contents. This is Katinka Bock’s Winterlandschaft mit Hut (Winter Landscape with Hat, 2011), a work that evokes the ordered disorder of a Japanese garden. The stone is reclaimed from historic buildings: a memento mori to structures like the church outside. In an alcove, Nina Canell’s Brief Syllable (2017), from a series of works made with segments of high-voltage electricity and communications cables, is an upward curve perched on thin metal stilts. It resembles a torii, a type of gate found at the entrance to a Shinto shrine. On either side of the fireplace, Dan Coopey’s Untitled (Xia) | Untitled (Sinai) (2017), twin hand-woven rattan baskets enclosing organic materials, evokes a museological display of ethnographic treasures.

mwdm_neither_045.jpg

‘Neither’, 2017, installation view, Mendes Wood DM, Brussels. Courtesy: Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York

Brenner says she was guided in her selection of works by Roland Barthes’s writings on the neutral – a notion he understood as describing that which evades categorization or, as he put it, ‘baffles paradigm’. It’s a seductive way to think about intriguing works of art, but because we often expect contemporary art to defy conventions, the concept’s critical capacity is somewhat diminished here, especially in the unambiguous context of a commercial gallery. The question, it seems to me, is one of taste. I didn’t view anything in the exhibition that exceeded or even baffled my understanding of the paradigm of contemporary art, but I did see many works that held my attention and pleased my senses.

Upstairs hangs a life-sized portrait of Drake, shot in 2009 by Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra. The gallerist’s frank expression and casual pose, with hands tucked into jeans pockets, connote a relaxed demeanour. On the adjacent wall, Fair Trade (2015) by Alexandre Da Cunha, refers to the working processes of an art gallery. The work is part of a series made by Da Cunha in collaboration with his dealer Luisa Strina, in which he charged her with the task of cross-stitching jute canvases that she would then put up for sale in her gallery, implicating her in both the creative and commercial aspects of production.

Brenner told me that she wanted the show to evoke ‘the time between bringing boxes into an empty house and it becoming a home.’ The multiple aesthetic, conceptual and anecdotal components of this exhibition indicate that the unpacking is already well underway.

Main image: ‘Neither’, 2017, installation view, Mendes Wood DM, Brussels. Courtesy: Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York

Issue 188

First published in Issue 188

June - August 2017

Most Read

Ahead of ARCOMadrid this week, a guide to the best institutional shows in the city
At La Panacée, Montpellier, Nicolas Bourriaud’s manifesto for a new movement and attempt to demarcate an artistic peer...
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