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Knives and neighbourhoods

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

We revisit CONDO, an international gallery exchange. This year features a collaboration with New Zealand gallery Hopkinson Mossman. Isabella Howard explains.

Bureau Condo installation view

As the summer heat hit New York City, a second installment of CONDO was unveiled. This gallery exchange programme, with iterations in London, Mexico City, São Paulo and Shanghai, cultivates collaborative exhibitions and co-shares between local and visiting galleries. The New York edition’s second year (covered in AZ#71, 2017) saw a rise in participating galleries from 36 to 47. This July, 21 New York galleries (with a couple of established Upper East Side locations among the debutantes) hosted 26 visiting galleries from London and Los Angeles, and farther afield – Cairo, Kolkata, Pristina, as well as New Zealand’s own Hopkinson Mossman, Sarah Hopkinson and Danae Mossman’s gallery with spaces in Auckland and Wellington.

Host galleries may co-curate with their guests, or simply leave them to fill their allocated space. Both options drive foot traffic as a welcome alternative to the prosaic ‘summer group show’ during the largely idle season. The CONDO model is particularly effective for collaborative shows; visiting galleries can showcase their artists in a New York gallery.

Hopkinson Mossman co-curated an exhibition with Kristina Kite Gallery of Los Angeles and Bureau, based in the Lower East Side of New York. The trio has long moved in similar orbits on the international art fair scene and maintains a dialogue about their artists. This led Gabrielle Giattino, owner and director of Bureau, to invite Hopkinson Mossman to show Fiona Connor and Oscar Enberg, two artists from Bureau’s roster.

Bureau Condo installation view

The exhibition, which also included American artists Tom Holmes, Dianna Molzan, Amy O’Neill, Libby Rothfeld, and Michael Queenland, came together intuitively for the gallerists who discussed the Pop Art sensibility of some artists. They also examined the process of formal invention, which Hopkinson described as 'using found objects and graphic content appropriated from products or existing architecture, but having a twist… the show was a sculptural investigation of the nature of that content.’

For his debut exhibition in New York, Hopkinson Mossman showed Oscar Enberg’s knife sculptures. These are Damascus steel blades adorned with animal-horn handles. One work, domestic hygiene or the contented cuckold, jutted out menacingly from the gallery hallway with a handmade lace eye-mask hanging from its blade. In the other work the blade, this time with a cow-horn handle, impaled a slab of butter.

Enberg’s work is a melting pot of references plucked from high and low culture, boiling them down to peculiar esoteric pairings of sculptural forms. Likened by art writer Chris Sharp to a cinematic storyboard, ‘where the tone, meaning and narrative information is conveyed only through physical objects,’ they require the viewers to extrapolate the narrative from a list of sundry materials and riddling titles. Everything is custom made. Hopkinson notes that the materials are very important to Enberg: ‘All of those materials and decisions are connected to an ongoing interest in abusive relationships, specifically a parasitic or colonial relationship. For example he often uses introduced species, like the deer antler… and while I think of the eye mask as the cuckold’s eye mask, it is also a symbol of cultural blindness.’

Auckland born, Los Angeles based Fiona Connor showed works from her Community Notice Board and Closed Down Club series, which replicate the pedestrian assortment of posters you breeze past in a supermarket or derelict entryway. The pin board from Essex Street Market has an array of offerings, such as the Greek Jewish Festival, martial arts lessons and free HIV testing. Meanwhile, the barren glass doors of Tonic nightclub stand stark in the centre of the gallery space, speckled with tape residue, an eviction notice as well as (with poetic hindsight) a poster for an ‘unfulfilled desires’ party. Hopkinson points out, ‘Fiona was making work at the time that responded quite directly to the neighbourhood’, drawing upon ‘objects or architecture that is within a 3–5-minute walk of Bureau.’ The motley mix highlights the diversity of the community, serving as a micro meta-history of the time the work was produced, and operating in the grey area between art and life.

Community Notice Board Essex Street Market

Reflecting on the CONDO experience, Hopkinson considered it a valuable platform for the gallery’s artists, with ‘the networking capabilities of a fair, but outside of that system and structure so it is much more about collaboration, community and exchange.’ Furthermore, it allowed the gallery to restart conversations with a New York audience familiar with Fiona Connor’s works, while initiating an impressive introduction to Oscar Enberg. ‘We had a very good response to the knives. They were heavily instagrammed, which in terms of an off-the-cuff response seems like people were really curious about the work.’

First published Art Zone #75


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