There’s no object too mundane to catch Micah Lexier’s eye. He collects scraps torn off cardboard boxes, envelopes and papers lying in the street, even bathroom-cleaning checklists at restaurants — anything that deals with the passage of time or with systems, the driving forces behind his own work as an artist. “I love garbage day,” he says. “It’s hard for me to walk home and not find things. I keep a knife in my pocket just in case.” It’s not that Lexier necessarily uses these found items in his own pieces, like the 1994 series in which he photographed 75 men from age 1 to 75, all of whom were named David, and then photographed them again ten years later. They’re just another part of his lifelong fascination with the aesthetics of order, a way of seeing the world that was mapped out perfectly in the show he recently curated at Toronto’s MKG127 gallery, where curiosities from his collection sat alongside sequentially themed works by other artists.
Called A to B, the exhibition — which closed yesterday — included 70 items arranged inside four glass vitrines of Lexier’s design, from a triptych of dot matrix–inspired oil paintings down to a tiny bottle cap he threw in at the last minute. (It came from the floor cleaner he bought to spiff up the gallery pre-show, and featured a 2-step instruction graphic indicating its removal.) Each was chosen for its own unique A to B progression, whether abstract or literal: A series of art postcards designed to be mailed sequentially, a before and after shot of a mortician’s handiwork, a dim sum ordering card, a sign printed in two different languages. “They zing back and forth in surprising ways,” says Lexier, who laid the objects out in ways that often furthered the subtle connections between them. But since there was no gallery guide explaining each item’s provenance, Sight Unseen asked Lexier to revisit the exhibition and describe how and why certain curiosities made the cut. Here are his answers.
Sighted on MoMA's Inside/Out blog: "Many of MoMA’s employees aren’t just guardians of the Museum’s collection: they are artists in their own right, and have found inspiration for their own work through their engagement with artwork shown at MoMA ... This new series of blog posts will focus on a few of MoMA’s many employee/artists, and will address the ways in which they have incorporated their daily work experiences into their own artistic processes."
For Brazilian artist Antonio Bokel, arriving at the Sid Lee creative offices in Amsterdam this May — where he was about to spend two weeks doing on-site prep for an in-house exhibition — was like a dream come true. For starters, the city’s garbagemen had just gone on strike, leaving mountains of detritus for him to incorporate into his Twombly-esque compositions. And then there was the location itself, arranged for him by local curator and writer Alexandra Onderwater: Having gone to school for graphic design, Bokel has spent nearly a decade using the visual tools of advertising and propaganda against themselves, Shepard Fairey-style, and here he was setting up shop in the back of a marketing agency. The juxtaposition "was a big influence on the show,” he says of his final installation, layered with spray paint, found objects, and words bleeding onto the walls.
When Dutch artist Eylem Aladogan took her first trip out West in 2006 — three months of driving alone through the Nevada, Utah, and Arizona desert — there was plenty to be afraid of: the wide-openness of the landscape, the sensation of smallness and isolation, the possibility that the only hotel for miles around would be fully booked for the night. “These feelings of restriction at the same time you’re constantly going, driving forward, really inspired me,” says the 34-year-old, who’s based in Amsterdam. “There’s so much energy when you feel that every day.” Enough, it would turn out, to fuel her art for the next four years, as she worked out a way to visually harness those opposing forces of anxiety and empowerment.