Pissoirs and Public Intimacy at Warsaw’s Wschód Gallery

Anders Dickson’s ‘Songs of Rain and Hobo Chili’ conjures the ephemerality of place

In a desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, the sprawling compound that used to house Soviet-era Poland’s largest printing press, churning out several of the country’s newspapers, is now reduced to a single building hosting two galleries. With patches of land excavated on either side and new structures glistening in the distance, this is also a final hurrah: Anders Dickson’s first exhibition in Poland, ‘Songs of Rain and Hobo Chili’, will also be Wschód Gallery’s last at this address. In response, the artist has installed an array of two- and three-dimensional works that engage with and transform the space.

Anders Dickson, ‘Songs of rain and hobo chilli’, 2019, exhibition view, Galeria Wschód, Warsaw

Tucked away at the bottom of a spiral staircase in the foyer is a large, white, nautilus-shaped structure, made of foam blinds, which echoes and extends the surrounding architecture, leading viewers to the heart of the work: a small photograph, taken with a pinhole camera, depicting a hazy lake scene with birds. Amsterdam Curls Pissoir (2019) not only reflects the structure of Wschód Gallery, it also evokes the spiral form of Amsterdam’s public urinals, in which the user is only partially screened from view. This tension between privacy and exposure sets the tone for the whole exhibition.

Arranged on the walls in the next room is a batch of elongated cardboard objects. Combined with found items and doused in paint, these are refuse-turned-tableaux. Initially used for casting forms in plaster and concrete, they have been cut open and furnished with minuscule elements to become artworks in their own right. In An Evening with the Florist (2019), for instance, the horizontally mounted tube cradles grapefruit rinds, petals, needles, pins and a photo, all topped with a fine chain – evoking a handbag, perhaps, or a holster for a weapon. Bone Growth (2019) is more austere: a vertical form smeared with white plaster in the upper section, patches of burlap in the middle and doused in deep-blue toxic copper sulphate at the bottom to resemble a water-measuring gauge. Imagining these totemic works as pipes that, instead of transporting water or sewage, ‘digest the material from someone’s home’, as the artist told me, Dickson here presents the digested materials of his own studio.

Anders Dickson, nutrition, 2019, bronze, 20 × 20 × 15 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galeria Wschód, Warsaw

Another set of works consists of three small, unframed watercolours: The Ascent (2016–19), When You Came in Through the Window You Let the Mosquitos in Too (2018–19) and Pensive State (2019). The former and the latter feature possibly the same protagonist, while the central painting is an abstract scene. From left to right, the three works gradually transition from muted red tones to a Marc Chagall-esque palette of blue and green, as though narrating the onset of dusk, with the moon finally emerging from under the belly of a cat in the last work of the trio. On the floor nearby sits a pack of three rats (Nutrition, 2019), their front legs interlocked, heads raised upwards in an effort to catch some water dripping from the ceiling. The bronze cast – a remake of an earlier piece, as are a number of works on display – sits in a pool created by a leak in the roof that occurred shortly before the show opened.

Narratives that transition from intimate to public unfold throughout ‘Songs of Rain and Hobo Chili’ in works focussing on the ephemeral and the makeshift. ‘I like to think of my work’, says Dickson, ‘as something of hobo art – in that the materials are very often sourced from my [own] environment, lowly refuse or leftover pieces.’ Among the etymological explanations of the term hobo is ‘homeward bound’. And one way of thinking of Dickson’s practice is that of home-making as a way of taming and inhabiting spaces that themselves shift and fluctuate.

Anders Dickson, ‘Songs of Rain and Hobo Chili’ was on view at Galeria Wschód from 20 September until 19 October 2019.

Main Image: Anders Dickson, The Ascent, 2016–19, When You Came in Through the Window You Let the Mosquitos in Too, 2018–19 and Pensive State, 2019, installation view, Anders Dickson, ‘Songs of rain and hobo chilli’, 2019, Galeria Wschód, Warsaw. Courtesy: the artist and Galeria Wschód

Krzysztof Kościuczuk is a writer and contributing editor of frieze. He lives between Poland and Switzerland.

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