BY Mark Prince in Reviews | 01 NOV 11
Featured in
Issue 143

Jorge Pardo

BY Mark Prince in Reviews | 01 NOV 11

Jorge Pardo, 2011, Installation view

Assuming the guise of décor, Jorge Pardo’s art, paradoxically, trades in essences rather than objects. It transforms a gallery into a showroom of interior design but, conversely, if it were installed in your apartment, it would carry the art space with it ­– at least notionally – to create a contested ground on which the bric-a-brac of everyday living is liberated from mere functionality. Pardo operates stealthily in the grey areas between art and living space, each attesting to the other in its absence.

At neugerriemschneider, this dichotomy was dramatized as a spatial conceit. A carpeted ‘living space’ furnished with bespoke lamps, glass-topped tables, wire chairs and chaise longues, was raised off the concrete floor on a revolving circular platform, from which you could view the rest of the show – the ‘art show’ – as a 360-degree panorama, without having to shift your chair. The wall-bound display comprised six gold-pigmented paintings, each roughly two metres wide, suggesting forest glades dappled with golden light (all works Untitled, 2011). Silhouettes of ants as long as your arm and cut from gold-tinted mirror decorated the remaining wall space, as if they had trooped off the forest floor and morphed into flashy designs in order to enact another slippery two-way transition between dimensions: from pictorial to gallery space, and then back to pictoriality as they reflected the contents of the gallery.

The platform was just high enough and its carpet just a pale enough shade of beige to make stepping up onto it in your street shoes possibly forbidden or inadvisable, therefore maintaining the ambiguity as to what was viewing space and what was there to be viewed. Compared to the classic Scandinavian plastic lamps on which Pardo’s lamps are remotely based, his designs – made of perforated steel – are impractical in their weight and complexity. Grouped by wooden lattices into clusters, an average residential room would surely require a reinforced ceiling to support them. Similarly, his chairs – made of brightly coloured coated wire strung over steel armatures – were as blatantly over-produced, as furniture, as the gold paintings were self-effacing as art, imitating luxury hotel kitsch. As day faded from the skylights, electric light – threading through the lampshades to blend with the painted leaf forms – fused ‘art’ and ‘furnishings’ into a single panoramic crepuscular atmosphere. The tabletops reflected the mirroring ants, which in turn reflected the glittering lamps to trace a concatenation of glimpses, like a hall of mirrors, in which the paintings – with their traditionally illusionistic spaces – proved to be the most opaque elements.

In décor terms, the installation was as over-egged as the brimming pots of white lilies arranged on its coffee tables. Pardo pushes tasteful design to a rococo extremity that belies it. This excessiveness signifies a breaching of the contexts to which his objects ostensibly conform. Overstepping their remit, from function to art, and from art to decor, they also exceed – in quality of construction and finish – the artisanal economies they reference and deploy. Offering themselves up to be judged by materialistic or aesthetic criteria, the objects claim a functional space in which they are free to do more insubstantial, metaphysical work. This diversionary tactic is an inverse of the early Conceptualist dematerialization of the art object; it is an over-materialization that works, however, to achieve the same ends.

Despite the relatively arcane objectives towards which he channels them, Pardo never condescends to his applied art sources. Transfiguring them, he also pays them homage. Design is subsumed by the art that comprehends it, as art is ‘imagined’ by the raised ‘living space’. From that vantage point, situated, at least symbolically, outside of the privileged space of art, we are in a position to yearn for it. The revolving platform is Pardo’s metaphor for this paradox, hinging between belonging and exile, the prosaic present and the artistic future into which it is endlessly turning.

Mark Prince is an artist and writer living in Berlin.