Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present Bring Me The Hands of Piri Reis, an exhibition of new works by Los Angeles-based artist Glenn Kaino. This marks Kaino’s first solo exhibition with the Gallery.
Conceiving his process of working as “conceptual kitbashing,” akin to a model-maker’s method of appropriating parts of commercial model kits in order to construct a unique custom model, Kaino engineers objects, performances, and ephemera using fragments and concepts mobilized in other creative disciplines. Drawing from his undergraduate training in computer science; his involvement in comic books and animation; his engagements in the music industry; his professional experience in digital media technology; and most recently, his rigorous training in magic, Kaino catalyzes formal and conceptual slippages through site and situation-specific works that blur the boundaries between art and other modalities of cultural production. This gives Kaino’s work the ability to forge new relationships between materials and ideas—unveiling new possibilities for the production and circulation of contemporary art.
Extending from his most recent engagements with magic and secrecy, this exhibition takes cartographic systems as a point of departure to interrogate the ways in which map-making functions as a hegemonic paradigm of knowledge recording and organization. Mapping, since the days of early world exploration, emerged as a method to inscribe the unknown, to give rationalization and order to obscure variables and unseen terrains. Accompanied by technological advancement, mapping soon expanded beyond its geographically-based disciplinary confines, setting in place a myriad of discursive tools and symbolic systems to analyze and chart multiple bodies of knowledge. Achieving this level of functional perfection, mapping has emptied the promises of new discovery and creativity—placing at our fingertips a pristine and complete picture of the world. Informed by his training in magic, Kaino intervenes into the systemic realm of map-making by introducing concealed secrets and random variables into a series of works that resist cartographic logic. Mistakes according to Kaino “are subversions into the imagined future of an idealized outcome, and by their very nature, create a heterogeneous circumstance that unlocks an infinite progress.” Through formal and material manipulations, Kaino introduces error and chance into a rigid epistemic system—generating works that redefine the relationship between art and audience while simultaneously reinvigorating our belief in the creative gesture.
Organized as an amorphous and indecipherable landscape, the exhibition is conceptually anchored by a new video work based on the classic magical illusion of the linking rings. Functioning as a navigational tool for the show, the work depicts the linking rings being performed by an invisible agent, drawing our attention to the illusion’s dependency on motion to manipulate perceptual depth, making visible new spatial dimensions. Accompanying this work, a series of pin-drawings and new inkjet prints based on the early maps of Turkish pirate and cartographer Piri Reis dissect the logic and function of map-making.
Gesturing to a practice nearing its collapse, six large-scale pin-drawings depicting different cityscapes are made vulnerable. As delicate pins cast in gold are incongruently juxtaposed to achieve compositional balance, their assemblage and fractured forms remind viewers that even seemingly resolved imagery is not as concrete as it may appear. In conversation with these works, Kaino creates a suite of transfigured drawings that take as source material the maps sketched by Turkish pirate Piri Reis during his early years as a pirate. These seemingly abstract drawings, the recordings of an outlaw, eventually became standardized maps after Reis joined the Ottoman fleet as an admiral, following a death threat by the emperor that left him with no other choice. Through inventive constructions that aim to reconcile gaps with imagination, Kaino prints images of these maps onto film that he then releases on paper using an alcohol-based technique similar to a Polaroid transfer. Physically distressing the images with his hands, fingers, and nails, Kaino layers the original images with new itineraries and locations, creating roadmaps for worlds we have yet to know.
In the gallery’s main space, Kaino furthers his investigation by presenting a new series of sculptural photographic works that propose a new approach to mapping that extends beyond traditional notions of space and time. Kaino photographs a series of locations throughout Los Angeles that at one point or another served as incubators for artist-run spaces or alternative cultural practices. Using a magic illusion called the hypercard, Kaino is able to literally extract these locations from the images, morphing their dimensionality through sculptural protrusions. Collectively these extended flaps highlight moments of creative activity localized in distinct temporalities; generating an imaginary of creativity that extends beyond time and place. Two large-scale paintings bound and covered by hand-made tapestries that illustrate the mechanics of a lock are also included in this gallery, evoking a series of secret relationships that exist between the works but that will remain indefinitely inaccessible to viewers; thus charging the exhibition with imaginative potential.
One last sculptural element completes Kaino’s meditation while creating a temporal bridge within his own artistic trajectory. Suspended from the ceiling, as if on a landing course, Kaino’s 2006 A Plank For Every Pirate makes its way back from a lengthy voyage that had as its main objective the reinvigoration of belief in art and artists. The large-scale wooden ship with fifty planks exploding from its bowels was a sculptural proposition Kaino used to speak about the revolutionaries whose transformative ideas led to their isolation and marginalization in a world of logic and objectivity. Each plank solemnly calls on one of these many figures, reminding us of unfulfilled dreams and expectations. In this new stage of Kaino’s practice, the ship majestically returns after its maiden voyage, bringing back the pair of hands that through ink and compass attempted to rationalize and systematize the world around us. More than a piece of pirate treasure, this return marks a poetic consolidation between Kaino’s previous artistic approach and his more recent conceptual experiments. A return of the hacker, pirate, revolutionary, and bandit, now armed with the imaginative potential to reconsider our collective investment in the production of creative moments.
Glenn Kaino (b. 1972, Los Angeles) received his BFA from the University of California, Irvine, in 1993 and his MFA from the University of California, San Diego, in 1996. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including Glenn Kaino: Safe|Vanish, LAXART, Los Angeles (2011); Honor Among Thieves, Performa09, in collaboration with Creative Time, New York (2010); Transformer: The Work of Glenn Kaino, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2008); The Burning Boards, The Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, New York (2007); Laws Were Made For Rogues, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, California (2006); and Bounce: Glenn Kaino and Mark Bradford, Gallery at REDCAT, Los Angeles, (2004) amongst others. Kaino’s work has also been included in group exhibitions at institutions around the world, including Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2011); Role Model— Role Playing, Museum der Moderne Mochsberg, Salzburg, Germany (2011); The Artists’ Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2010); Disorderly Conduct: Recent Art in Tumultuous Times, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2008); Blackbelt, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2004); and One Planet under a Groove, Bronx Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2001) amongst others. In 2004, his work was included in the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art and the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition to his studio practice, Kaino has been involved in various projects that established experimental platforms for the production and dissemination of contemporary art. In 1997, Kaino cofounded Deep River, an artist-run gallery in Los Angeles that was active through 2002, staging solo shows with some of Los Angeles’s most important emerging artists. Most recently, he cofounded The Mistake Room, an itinerant platform for exhibitions, publications, and situation-specific artist projects. Kaino currently lives and works in Los Angeles.