Chisenhale Gallery presents the first UK solo exhibition by New York-based artist Jordan Wolfson and the UK premiere of Raspberry Poser (2012). This is Wolfson’s most recent video piece and the final instalment in a trilogy of works also comprising Con Leche (2009) and Animation, masks (2011).
Establishing himself over the past decade as one of New York’s leading young artists exploring new media and our contemporary image world, Wolfson’s Chisenhale Gallery exhibition follows presentations in 2013 at S.M.A.K., Ghent and Redcat, Los Angeles and the publication of his first major monograph, Ecce Homo / le Poseur. Within Chisenhale Gallery’s programme, Wolfson’s exhibition builds on commissions by artists such as Helen Marten, Ed Atkins, James Richards, Josephine Pryde and Hito Steyerl whose work explores the material qualities of our present moment, the new forms and technologies that define us, and their existential resonance.
Wolfson produces psychologically complex works in which images and language undergo dream-like repetitions and rehearsals. He returns to universal themes such as love, desire and the human condition through his exploration of ideas of subjectivity, performance and the role of the artist. Visually stunning, Wolfson’s works juxtapose a range of animation techniques, collage, found and filmed footage and sound displayed in meticulous installation environments.
In Raspberry Poser, episodic sequences of computer generated imagery (CGI) and found images are interwoven with the activities of two characters – a malevolent cartoon ‘angry kid’ with an insatiable appetite for self-inflicted violence, and a listless punk played by Wolfson himself. These smirking protagonists wreak low-grade havoc in their respective cartoon and bourgeois worlds playing out a sense of dissonance also present in Wolfson’s unseemly combinations of animated objects and found images, which seduce and repulse in equal measure.
Computer-generated HIV viruses bounce enthusiastically to Beyoncé’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ across footage shot in high-end interiors stores and on the exclusive boutique-lined streets of SoHo, New York. Further sequences depict morphing clouds of red blood cells and a heart-filled condom drifting joyfully across a series of incongruous backdrops, including children’s bedrooms, Japanese erotica, historical paintings, New Yorker style cartoons and photographs of DIY construction projects – to the soundtrack of Mazzy Star’s 1990s hit ‘Fade Into You’.
Wolfson’s fast-paced editing style and sampled soundtrack are reminiscent of the easily consumable format of the music video but like his image content, which oscillates between the nostalgic and the offensive, the use of music in Raspberry Poser is as jarring as affective. Swooning ballads lull the viewer, fading, slowing in tempo and then suddenly increasing uncomfortably in volume or stopping abruptly, giving way to self-conscious silences.
Raspberry Poser is Wolfson’s most technically ambitious video to date, layering digital video, CGI and hand-drawn animation with found images and his own performance to camera. As in previous works, Wolfson exploits the undefined space between artifice and reality offered up by new CGI techniques. However, unlike the digital avatar in Animation, masks, whose gestures and utterances create an alarming dissonance, the character at the centre of Raspberry Poser is Wolfson himself – a more ambiguous caricature who draws the viewer into an awkward intimacy. Alongside the dancing viruses – potent reminders of the ultimate fragility of the human body – Wolfson’s melancholic punk appears as vulnerable as he is cocksure.
Wolfson presents us with a world of animation, failed commodities and desire but also great humour, beauty and pleasure, engaging an emotional and complex set of relations between audience and images. To quote art historian Linda Norden, ‘Wolfson approximates the peculiarly reflective critical space of a generation increasingly defined by the conflation of digital screen and mirror – a mirror that floods, or overwhelms, an anxious echo that talks back in an endless assault of options.’
Jordan Wolfson (born 1980, New York) lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions include S.M.A.K., Ghent (2013), Redcat, Los Angeles; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2012); Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2011); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2009); Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art, New York (2008); Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy (2007); and Kunsthalle Zürich (2004). Group exhibitions include Kaboom! Comics in Art, Weserburg Museum für Moderne Kunst, Bremen (2013); April, Sadie Coles, London (2013); Le Nouveau Festival, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2012); Dystopia, CAPC, Bordeaux (2011); Prospectif Cinéma, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010); Made for TV, Palais de Tokyo, Paris; 11th Istanbul Biennale (both 2009). Wolfson received the Frieze Foundation Cartier Award in 2009.
All images Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2012, digital video, computer-generated imagery, hand-drawn animation, sound, 13′ 55” (video still). Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery. Produced by Redcat, Los Angeles in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent. Photo: Andy Keate. Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London; T293, Naples/ Rome; and David Zwirner, New York.