On ViewCasey Kaplan Gallery
January 9 – February 22, 2014
Jason Dodge, an American artist living in Berlin, works in a conceptualist style with a narrative twist (some call it poetic) that has worn well throughout the biennial circuit. His most recent solo show at Casey Kaplan, We are the meeting, is oriented along a north-south axis. The exhibition’s two central pieces are a lightning rod and an industrial metal chimney laid down on the gallery floor. Both point north. This directional orientation doesn’t quite remain intact, yet is an important element as part of the artist’s appeal to the universal. In the second room we see the beginning and terminal point of an electrical wire that runs around the gallery’s many rooms, affixed to the wall above our heads. A wicker basket—that peacefully empty vessel—commands this same second room. It is tied to two large light bulbs that kiss near the separating wall. In the last room, whose hue changes with the varying installations of spare fluorescent lighting fixtures, is the final macabre resting place of the electrical wire, situated in a clear tank of water. Running through all the rooms is a thin pipe said to contain poison hemlock.
Dodge is careful to connect each of his objects. The arrangement is electrical, structurally and thematically. Perhaps the global exchange of energy is a more encompassing framework to ponder after one notices the grocery bags throughout, filled with material used to “charge” human beings. Pillows, too, might be assumed to be a universal tool for a universal human activity, except Dodge adds a conceptual twist: his condition for the pillow used in “The Mayor is sleeping” is that only one person, the Mayor of Nuremberg, has used it.
The work at Casey Kaplan is a reprise of objects used by Dodge before. Specifically, the basket, water tanks, wires, containers of hemlock, and kissing light bulbs were exhibited at Yvon Lambert in 2010, much in the same manner. Dodge returns to this motif often, as apparently these objects are effective signifiers of the natural, cyclical processes he tries to illustrate. We are without the stacks of white towels used in What have we done (October 19, 2013 – January 26, 2014), exhibited last year at the Henry Art Gallery and in Jason Dodge at the LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz. In their stead, another form of stacked white sheets, this time tissue boxes, serve as beds for bars of deodorant still in their packaging.
Measuring Dodge’s relationship to previous conceptualists is a gesture made pointless by virtue of its clarity. Somewhere above pastiche and below innovative commentary, Dodge is reaching backward but leaning forward. He makes the world feel small by condensing international phenomena into concise, understated objects whose circuitry is modestly laid before us. Dodge the conceptualist collapses the whole world into a stylish gallery space; Dodge the artist seems less interested in philosophy than in making it all look good; and Dodge the poet maintains a practice of making the viewer pull together what his dealer remarks are “phenomena that I cannot experience but that I know exist.” In the sparse layout at Casey Kaplan, the viewer is free to decide which Dodge they should believe.