This autumn, Sadie Coles HQ presents new works by Michele Abeles in her first exhibition with the gallery. The show will extend across both spaces in Mayfair, 69 South Audley Street and 9 Balfour Mews.
Abeles’s use of photography maintains an anonymous approach, prying open gaps in a seamless visual episteme. Does X=X? Her characteristic treatment of the body alternates between deploying it as a readymade and peering at it as a greyed-out form knowable only as it is abstracted, dispersed, projected onto, exposed, or dressed up. If every iteration is only provisional, like the shifting angle of light or lens or the passing of an indifferent gaze, it is no less stringent and instrumental.
In this exhibition, Abeles explores concepts of finitude and escape, inverts military technology, and surveys the body as a vessel of style, a site of acquisition and display, a walking code and clock.
A new installation centres on jungle imagery, exotic and vacuous, as a location for imaginative projection and camouflage. Photographs of thick vegetation, all cropped from the same source, variously repeat or overlap. Take a vacation, never come back? Configurations of white ceramic tiles hover over the images in arrangements that ‘quote’ Marcel Broodthaers's book Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (1969), in which the artist reduced Mallarmé’s experimental poem to black stripes conforming to the patterns formed by the original words. The double appropriation points to the existence of contemporary visual and experiential grammer.
The flattening or levelling in Abeles’s compositions—the obliteration of depth and the renunciation of hierarchy—is pushed to a limit in a series of algorithmically derived works that abandon human vision entirely. Collaborating with an engineer specializing in computer vision for military and industrial uses (the artist’s brother), she processed one of her pre-existing photographs via algorithm, then converted its mathematical ‘perception’ back into visual form: a binary, black-and-white, on/off grid. Small photographs printed on translucent plastic cling via static charge to the work’s glass. The data, blurred, becomes the photo’s literal background; together the ensemble is the image suspended between states, caught in a recurring sequence of arrival and departure.
This terminal betweenness is obliquely reprised in a small group of found photos of boats at sea. The deterritorialized space of the ocean appears traditionally matted, squared off, fixed. A pendant group of works depicts mothers and daughters shopping, with the (female) body a roaming display of nowness in its selections of clothes, nails and jewellery. The women iterate each other, genetically and socially, and shop as a way to simultaneously connect and detach. A related group of works present tight shots of their watches, implicating now’s steady recession into then. These nods to the seemingly vitiated genre of street photography carry over the disruption and dissolution of form from Abeles’s studio work in ways that imply that the everyday is just another form of abstraction. Against the backdrop of the human’s transformation into image and information, the presumptive ur-bond, that of mother and daughter, is staged and its ability to be recouped left an open question.
Michele Abeles (b.1977, New York) received a BA from Washington University and an MFA from Yale University. Recent solo shows include those at 47 Canal Street, New York, and Andreas Melas & Helena Papadopoulos, Athens; her work has featured also in major group exhibitions including Speculations on Anonymous Materials, Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (2013); Test Pattern, Whitney Museum of Art, New York (2013); 12th Biennale de Lyon, France (2013); Empire State, curated by Norman Rosenthal and Alex Gartenfeld, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2013); and New Photography (2012), Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Abeles lives and works in New York.