Commonwealth and Council

Frieze London 2019

Nikita Gale and P. Staff


Commonwealth and Council presents a selection of new sculptures and photographic works by Nikita Gale and P. Staff, whose works share an interest in exploring new queer modes of social relations and political resistance in the everyday.

Using materials that commonly mediate sound (speech) and (the assembly of) bodies, Nikita Gale rearticulates public infrastructures to proffer new sites of protest and performance. Gale’s sculptures, assembled from hand-welded metal and unravelled balaclavas, reference DIY soundproofing techniques and ad hoc barricade structures, underscoring the political and cultural implications of noise, silencing, and crowd control. Gale’s new photographic work reconfigures the relationships between amplification and linkage. Freed from their functional mandates to record and transmit, microphones and audio cables become ambiguous channels. Manifest in the gnarly drawing lines of tangled cords, the abject curl of a concrete-soaked towel, and the contrapposto of a malformed steel fence, Gale celebrates and interrogates histories of political dissidence and radical expression (rock and roll).

Through print and sculpture, P. Staff references the interpretation, embodiment, and regulation of queer bodies. Staff’s latest body of work, adapting Heinrich von Kleist’s 19th century play The Prince of Homburg, explores exhaustion and sickness as political modes. Photogram collages arrange images and objects related to vulnerability, violence, exhaustion, and desire, suggesting surreal, feverish states of queerness and transgression. The declaration Fuck the Clock foregrounds a subversion of time--a disavowal of the regulated rhythms of existence under capitalism. The Appetite, a fencelike sculpture crowning the booth, continues this decontextualization of everyday objects, incongruously trapped in aluminum tangles.

Nikita Gale (b. 1983, Anchorage, Alaska; lives and works in Los Angeles) received an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles in 2016 and a BA from Yale University in 2006. Gale has had solo exhibitions at Visual Arts Center, The University of Texas at Austin (2019); 56 Henry, New York (2018); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Georgia (2018); Artist Curated Projects, Los Angeles (2017); and PARMER, New York (2014). Selected group exhibitions have been held at Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles (2019); CUE Art Foundation, New York (2019); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Studio Museum, New York (2017); LUX, London (2017); LA><ART, Los Angeles (2016); and EFA Project Space, New York (2014). Gale is the recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2017); the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship, UCLA, (2016); and the National Endowment for the Arts Southern Constellations Fellowship (2013); and has had residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture (2019); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2011-14); and the Center for Photography at Woodstock (2011).

P. Staff (b. 1987, Bognor Regis, UK; lives and works in Los Angeles and London) studied at Goldsmiths College, London (2009), and was part of the Associate Artist Programme at LUX, London (2011). Staff has had solo exhibitions at Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2019) Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland (2019); LUMA Westbau, Zürich, Switzerland (2019); Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2017); Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (2016); and Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK (2015). Selected group exhibitions have been held at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2019); ICA London, UK (2019); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); New Museum, New York (2017); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2016); Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2015); and Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway (2014. They are the recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Artists (2015) and have had residencies at FD13 Residency for the Arts (2018), LUX (2014), The Showroom (2014), Fogo Island Arts (2012), and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (2010). Their new commissioned work, The Prince of Homburg, debuted at Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland and will tour at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and Humber Street Gallery, Hull, UK. On Venus, their upcoming solo exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, London, UK, opens November 8, 2019.