For the inaugural edition of Frieze No. 9 Cork Street, Commonwealth and Council presents Give, Up., featuring new work by Danielle Dean, EJ Hill, Nikita Gale, and P. Staff.
“give, up.”—the familiar phrase of surrender détourned with a comma, glowing green amid popcorn clouds in EJ Hill’s neon installation A Directive—suggests a lighter take on resignation before the world’s impending collapse; if the sky is falling, we must take flight. This ludic admonishment to uplift also holds within it the kernel of abundance, a vision of mutual care and giving that shines through the cracks in our zero-sum world, with its systemic violence and strife—let it all fall. The dream lives silently in us, awaiting the day; when the lights go out, you’re there.
Similarly, Nikita Gale’s sculptures plumb the alleyways of obfuscation and avoidance for new openings. RECORDING indexes fugitive improvisations of terrycloth, petrified in concrete. Performance and gesture are rendered permanent yet illegible, resistant: I was here—but who? The subject slips away undetected, leaving behind only this confounding talisman, perhaps a waypost for others on the same path. In LEARNING, a small chair caked in concrete displays a miniature ruin. Embedded spotlights illuminate the little scene as well as a spot on the floor, beyond the sculpture’s footprint, where something has yet to appear, or has come to pass without a trace. These unsettling ciphers point to hidden potentials that lie outside what appears and what is known, indicating the limits of surveillance—and ways around it.
In new work by P. Staff, resin panels offer up photographic pairings of young men pissing in their own mouths and erotically gaping stone gargoyles, as well as scenes of cattle awaiting slaughter—linking modern excess with ritual fetishism and sacrifice while setting off the mechanical routineness peculiar to the contemporary iteration, where piss-drinking and industrialized animal cruelty are both actions emptied of desire. Scatterings of bone, ash, nail clippings, and hair cannot summon magic enough to reanimate these blank, disaffected specters, nor impede their all-pervasive economy, where every image is just another image. But the subtle technologies of desire persist within these offerings, and this ritual act continues returning disruptive glimpses of the world through a glass, darkly—perhaps especially when the images themselves are devoid of meaning.
Danielle Dean’s large-scale watercolor 4. a.m. seamlessly compiles an image-world taken from Ford automobile advertisements, originating from the 1920s to the present day. Dean’s ongoing body of work interrogates the conditions of gig economy labor, data as industry, and a post-Fordism model for mass labor. The image of a vast outdoor panorama—improbable setting for the unoccupied home-office setup in the left foreground—proposes the sort of vacant idyll only capitalism could imagine. Yet it is haunted by the absent figure of an Amazon Mechanical Turk worker: a member of a crowd-sourced, data-gathering labor pool contracted by the eponymous mega-company to perform mindless digital tasks for meager pay. While the work-from-home imagery is more than common in context of recent global events, Dean juxtaposes the flattened, supra-real landscapes supposedly achieved by the upwardly-mobile or “white-collar” worker with realities of neocolonial exploitation of underpaid, isolated, and immobile gig workers whose labor functions more in the manner of Henry Ford’s assembly line than that of the desk-bound PMC. The scene’s throwaway naturalism and serenity belie the lived conditions of much invisible labor, which makes up a broad sector of the postindustrial, globalized (yet still siloed) underbelly.
As if in answer to these vignettes upon contemporary refuse, the paired holographic videos comprising Staff’s Planetary Dysphoria relocate the source of dissatisfaction and desire for change, from the body to the site. Conjuring our world as a hostile environment, they propose an escape.
— like suffering
, like sleeping
no sleeping / like home
and no home like this –
(text from On Venus, 2019)
Danielle Dean (b. 1982, Huntsville, Alabama; raised in London; lives and works in San Diego and Los Angeles) received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2013 and a BFA from Central Saint Martins in 2006. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at 1646 Space, The Hague (2020); Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany (2020); Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2019); 47 Canal, New York (2018); Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2017); and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016). Selected group exhibitions have been held at 47 Canal, New York (2021, 2018); UP Projects, London (2019); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2018); South London Gallery (2018); ANTI: the 6th Athens Biennale (2018); Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam (2017); SFMOMA Open Space (2017); Goethe-Institut Nigeria, Lagos (2016); Diverse Works, Houston (2016); and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014). Dean is the recipient of the Tomorrowland Projects Foundation Award (2021), a Creative Capital Grant for Visual Artists (2015), and a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2014). Dean will participate in the Performa Biennial, New York in October 2021, and will have a solo exhibition at Tate Britain in January 2022.
EJ Hill (b. 1985, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles) received an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2013 and a BFA from Columbia College, Chicago in 2011. Solo exhibitions have been held at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Cambridge (2020); Company Gallery, New York (2018); Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2017); and Human Resources, Los Angeles (2017). Selected group exhibitions have been held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2021); Dallas Museum of Art (2019); California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2019); Aspen Art Museum (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Venice (2017); The Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2017); Institut d’art contemporain, Villeurbanne, France (2017); PinchukArtCentre, Kyiv (2017); and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2016). Hill is the recipient of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship at Harvard University (2018-19), a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant to Artists (2018); a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant (2018), the Mohn Public Recognition Award at the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2018 (2018), the Los Angeles Artadia Award (2018), the Art Matters Foundation Grant (2017), and a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists (2015). Hill will participate in Prospect.5 New Orleans: Yesterday we said tomorrow, opening October 2021.
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’s work applies the lenses of material culture and sound studies to consider how authority is negotiated within political, social, and economic systems. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Anchorage Museum (2021); CIRCA in collaboration with Chisenhale Gallery, London (2010); California African-American Museum, Los Angeles (2021); 56 Henry, New York (2021); MoMA PS1, New York (2020); the Visual Arts Center, University of Texas at Austin (2019); Reyes Finn, Detroit (2019); Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2018); and Artist Curated Projects, Los Angeles (2017). Selected group exhibitions have been held at carlier | gebauer, Berlin (2021); 47 Canal, New York (2021); the Cincinnati Art Center (2021); Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin (2021); Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles (2020); Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2020); Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles (2019); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2019); CUE Art Foundation, New York (2019); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Ceysson and Bénétière, Paris (2018); the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2017); LUX, London (2017); and LA><ART (2016). Gale serves on the Board of Directors for Grex, the West Coast affiliate of the A. K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems. Gale is the recipient of a FOCAFellowship (2021); a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant (2017); the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship, UCLA (2016); and residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME (2019); Fountainhead, Miami (2019); the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2011-14); and the Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY (2011).
P. Staff (b. 1987, 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). Solo exhibitions have been held at LUMA Arles, France (2021); ICA Shanghai (2020); Serpentine Galleries, London (2019); the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2019); Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland (2019); LUMA Westbau, Zürich (2019); and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2015). Selected group exhibitions have been held at the 13th Shanghai Biennale (2021); Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin (2021); 47 Canal, New York (2021); the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2020); the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2019); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2019); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018); MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles (2018); the New Museum, New York (2017); Gasworks, London (2016); and KW Institute, Berlin (2016). They are the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2019); the Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Artists (2015); and residencies at FD13, Minneapolis (2018); LUX, London (2014); The Showroom, London (2014); Fogo Island Arts, Canada (2012); and the Banff Centre, Canada (2010).