Nina Beier’s second show at Croy Nielsen blends humor and seriousness with a focus on what is unsaid. Robin Waart reacts to her strategies of appropriation.
What more is there to say? At this hour and time, when it is not just love, but appropriation too that needs to be reinvented. Moving between possession and discontent, Nina Beier’s latest show European Interiors II at Croy Nielsen suggests we ask ourselves again this oldest of conceits. Its layout, in uneven numbers, accounts to this: an odd leather glove, three sink sculptures, seven bird cage frames, and also three paintings, one in each of the gallery’s rooms. The installation with the cages (»Empire«, all works 2019), missing their bottom trays, stands on the floor, holding a collection of decorated faux Chinese tableware —made in Denmark— more like bottle racks than as pedestals or display models. The glove, its middle finger and index crossed, is adorned with a heart, cross, hammer and sickle, »Total« and »Triumph« pins (amongst others). The ceramic sinks, from the larger series shown at »European Interiors« at Spike Island and in »Baby« at Metro Pictures last year, are each metonymically titled after what they do not have: »Plugs«. The drains, however, are stuffed with darkening cigar leaves; while in her paintings of gallerist Oliver Croy, his face has taken on the basins’ beige skin tone. All of these are cultural trappings, pointing to something that isn’t there and maybe shouldn’t be: to that art historically omnipresent, now authorially contested plumbing piece, to the assisted readymade of »Why not Sneeze…«, the gallery’s second half and namesake Henrikke Nielsen, and the other, left-handed glove. In its own way, Beier’s approach pushes to see reference as a form of lack, dispossessing its remnants and showing them almost as they are, without the need for further pilfering: they become dismantled associations. Here decoration is intelligence, spying on fingers pierced by advertisements, signature cups and saucers, and the exposed barcode sticker under one of the sink’s orifices betrays their relative newness. One friend pointed to the faces the upturned washbowls make, another to their female curves. Moving back from the personified to the caged, what came to mind was a played up version of Catullus’ second poem, addressed to Lesbia’s sparrow— one of the earliest birds in the Western tradition. Specifically, the poet’s feelings of falling short and jealousy toward the peckered animal, as an equally early admission of his (male) deficiency. That these pieces say, »Don’t take me too seriously,« is precisely what makes them appropriate. »You know I prefer a bird. What bird?« (Gertrude Stein »Lifting Belly«, 1917) It is ok to be incomplete. It might even be something to strive for.
Nina Beier »European Interiors II« is on view until December 20, 2019 at Croy Nielsen, Parkring 4, 1010 Vienna