Mitchell-Innes & Nash is pleased to present our first exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Karl Haendel, on view in our Chelsea gallery from October 22 through December 5, 2015. The multilayered exhibition features large, labor-intensive pencil drawings situated within an immersive monochromatic installation.
Haendel, whose practice includes drawing, installation, and film, is best known for his photorealistic graphic drawings depicting imagery pulled from everyday life and media. His work often contrasts these familiar consumerist motifs with conceptual syntaxes or frameworks, which highlight artistic concerns of production and reproduction. Haendel describes his own practice as “honest work about contradiction and hypocrisy." His work engages the role of drawing as performance and record, executed with a coherence of narrative and subject as journey.
For his exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, titled “Organic Bedfellow, Feral Othello”, Haendel sets up an immersive black and white environment of juxtaposing narratives, tracing our animalistic nature to evolve and transform against tendencies towards devolution.
What could be a better foil in understanding human evolution than everyday moments of devolution, which have remained a part of our species for thousands of years: getting cold, quenching thirst, being out of breathe. Black and white may be defined in opposition to each other but this is also what makes them inextricably linked. Our evolution is our devolution. Our devolution is our evolution. When we recycle, somewhere deep down inside we acknowledge the hypothetical end of Earth for our species, and when we couple, somewhere deep down inside we resist it.
-- Karl Haendel
A visual thread of geometric shapes ties together three groups of black-and-white drawings which contemplate this juxtaposition: primates balance atop modernist, geometric stacks; couples bend and stretch in yoga poses contained in shaped frames; still life drawings of objects and symbols displayed on irregular polygonal bases. Taken together, the works refer to various kinds of transformation; the evolutionary transformation of primate to human; the transformation of one’s body through physical objects or activity; and the oppositional forces of nature and culture.
Haendel also utilizes both gallery and digital spaces to activate the work on view. In the gallery, black-and-white checkered patterns bisect the floor, interspersed by polygonal bases displaying still life drawings with hand-drawn QR codes, which link to a curated selection of YouTube videos chronicling physical transformation, such as a weight loss journey or the transition from male to female. In the still life drawings, Haendel creates his own syntactical visual system, using rhyme, alliteration and mathematical symbols. In Neither a Subset of Nor Equal to, Booster, Straps, Flat to Boobs, for example, the mathematical symbol for “neither a subset of nor equal to”, or “⊈”, is juxtaposed with a photorealist drawing of a testosterone booster, work-out straps and a QR code linking to a video of a woman reviewing her breast enlargement surgery. Linked through symbolic and linguistic meaning, the drawings showcase humankind’s tendencies to systematize and categorize personal expression.