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."
Is it times of trouble that attract us so keenly to the nostalgia of souvenirs — the snow globes, the ticket stubs, the ubiquitous museum totes? At the end of a chaotic decade, a rash of exhibitions has popped up dedicated to the kitschy takeaways of travel. The largest of these, “The Souvenir Effect,” curated by Òscar Guayabero for Barcelona’s Disseny Hub design museum, opened at the height of Spanish tourist season in July and comes to a close this Sunday.
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.