For Ian Markell’s first solo exhibition in New York and at Kimberly-Klark Gallery, the artist presents a large scale work, which generates the title of the show. In Names from the Box, a forest green canvas is stretched onto a vestibule that mimics the protective commercial antechambers that pop up around building exteriors in wintertime. Seamed to the green fabric are printed panels of photographed masculinity– images that exude secrecy as much as eroticism, obscured with shadowy markings. Markell encountered the images in a queer archive, recaptured them on a light table, and in so doing, revealed traces of the images’ past lives, silhouetting their glue marks from albums diluted into anonymity. In the artist’s resulting prints on canvas, the bonding agent that once invisibly affixed two surfaces becomes the protagonist of the work, carrying fibrous traces of material history and testifying as witness to contextual transference.
What is typically opaque is made permeable, and what was once an intimate and perhaps singular perspective has been refracted into multitudes of history, inviting you to connect the dots. A kiosk is partially visible from behind the vestibule, pronouncing a space of both commerce and concealment. The relationship between the kiosk and the canvas vestibule enacts a sensual and subversive critical practice that arises through looking–not as seeing but as a desiring to be seen. Simultaneously denying entry and provoking intrigue, the green facade teases our need to penetrate in order to understand, troubling our conception of knowledge by restraining the realm of possible interactions. Incorporating commercial construction methods to mimic a venue that historically has been a hub for information and exchange, Markell’s sculptural and obscured kiosk becomes shell-like, as it remains shuttered albeit vacant. The works simultaneously enclose and break open, yearn and withhold, dispossess and locate.
An additional smaller wall work, HEDY, echoes the modular notions of containment and poetics of tribute seen in Names from the Box. At its center, an entropic cluster of silver stars is visible within a plastic document casing, affixed to an iteration of the same green canvas composing the vestibule. Making subtle reference to the commutability of the material filters through which Markell tempers his focal interest, this work utilizes the gesture of containment as a titration for considering the soul. What begins as a tribute to Hedy Lamarr, the late Austrian-American actress whose scientific research gave way to encrypted networking systems like wifi and guided missiles, evolves into a meditation on chance, drawing names from a hat, and constituent parts living a life (un)necessarily contained.