In the era of e-cigarettes, a pipe seems an archaic object. As suggested by this show’s title (an equally untimely nod to Pink Floyd’s first album) pipes now tend to be found in dark corners and twilight zones; used to consume substances in a haze of supposed rebellion. The pipe was the theme then of this show organized by artist Grayson Revoir at Galerie Jan Kaps. Twenty sculptures were meticulously lined up on a waist-high ledge round the walls of the gallery. At various places, barstools were positioned under this ledge, making the room resemble a cross between a bar, a smoker’s lounge and a pipe display in an ethnological museum. In the show, various approaches to one and the same function crystallized around the pipe, albeit coupled with large hits of improvization.
As his point of departure, Revoir took a sculpture by Keegan Monaghan and Nik Gelormino – a functioning pipe made out of half a walnut shell and a section of brass tube (Untitled, 2009) – as well as four pipe-shaped works by Monaghan, Gelormino and Nick Parker (all 2009). In all Revoir invited 16 artists to each make or select a pipe-inspired work, whether functional or not. A pipe consists simply of a combustion chamber, stem and mouthpiece, but the interpretations of this were manifold, ranging from a cubist-modernist marble pipe (Oto Gillen’s Pipe 1, 2014) to a cork with alabaster mouthpiece by the artist group Cynthia Brothers (Jerry, 2009). Mia Goyette’s Half Bread (2014) resembled a complete plumbing system. A metal stainless-steel tube extended from the wall. Angled with pipe fittings and replete with a tap, it was held upright by a transparent hand made of synthetic resin likewise fitted to the wall. Installed in the second room, meanwhile, were three freestanding sculptures by Georgia Gray, Tore Wallert and Pam Lins. Gray showed a blue, long-haired figure, not-quite life-size, smoking a long pipe, from which hair-like leather extended (Pipe Smoker, 2014); Lins, a ceramic Phone Pipe (2014) shaped like a rotary phone; and Wallert a two-metre Perspex stele containing a padded jacket, tubes and sections of dyed synthetic resin (I was on to something, 2014).
Beyond formal concerns, the pipe also stood for friendship: as a social instrument, passed around and enjoyed together. In fact the pipe quite literally brought together a group of friends. Apart from Rosemarie Trockel, Michail Pirgelis and David Ostrowski, who are residents of Cologne, the other featured artists belong to Revoir’s formerly New York-based circle of friends: like Revoir, all born in the 1980s, and most alumni of the Cooper Union. This attention to a friendship network developed at the academy and consolidated through socializing elsewhere, make these relationships and interactions visible. Up to a point: from the work, the true nature of these relationships remained unclear. One could neither use the pipes nor conjure up their original contexts. Instead, you felt like an archaeologist examining artefacts from a past civilization. Or like a guest, turning up at a party when everyone else has already gone home, eager to reconstruct what might have happened.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell