Jim Lambie: La Scala

Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin

In Jim Lambie’s La Scala fabricated and everyday objects were playfully and suggestively interspersed within the large and smaller gallery spaces of Gerhardsen Gerner. These materials and objects were recognisably from both the domestic and music-venue worlds, and they produced an installation with a strange nostalgic intensity and humour. The Ballad of the Buffalo Gals (all works 2016) comprises a truncated set of stairs made from Judd-like pressed and powdercoated aluminium, box-shaped steps that protrude from the gallery wall. The steps are a lurid dark blue, and on one sits a ghetto blaster that has been pimped out with a set of horns (like those of a Viking helmet) either side, a series of aerials, and two Quadrophenia-like moped rearview mirrors. Different colours of paint have been daubed across the double tape deck and radio dial. Hanging under the ‘stairs’ is a found embroidered seat cushion doubling as an over-sized pin cushion from which are fixed, with a series of gold-coloured safety pins, a number of lengths of vibrant fabric—belts, ties, jacket zips, or cravats.

On the opposite wall was Teardrop Boombox (La Scala), another set of steps, this time in bright yellow, upon which are three jet-black casts of the smaller more reserved radio/single-tape-type music player. Under this set of steps are a series of dessert spoons bent into right angles, their handles screwed to the wall, and carefully mounded in the bowl of each spoon are small mountains of various colours of paint pigment, all of which suggests an almost synaesthesic re-arrangement of musical notes, memories, movements, materials.

Arranged in the middle of the space is Cosmic Vortex (Deeper and Deeper), a three-seater couch painted silver, over which spins an oversized disco ball constructed from lengths of bicycle-tyre tubing. As this rubber disco ball makes its slow macabre revolutions, the little motor fitted to the ceiling above throws out a rhythmic ticking sound into the otherwise muted central-Berlin space, which in turn generates a type of domesticity; but one that is not entirely homely, more a grimy post-party comedown type of domesticity.

Also on the walls of the gallery are two large ‘paintings’ that consist of an arrangement of expanded-foam-filled potato bags, lying down and standing up beside each other, all of which are fixed to a canvas, thus cantilevering the bags into the space. Technodelic (Infinite Fries) and Purple Rain, with their prominent chrome-green and chrome-purple colours, goad the viewer into thinking ‘Jeff Koons’—the thought of which, looking at potato sacks, becomes laughable; however, the luridness of the colours and texture here, though less brilliant in their sheen than Koons’s more famous works, are far more approachable and characterful in their dusty lustre. These various wall, floor, and ceiling-based elements reverberated with a form of familiarity. Lambie has mastered the art, it seems, of making the odd compellingly familiar, as opposed to making the familiar odd, which is so often the task undertaken by vast tracts of post-modern to contemporary sculpture. It is as if these works asked the viewer to reconsider the oddness of the everyday within a firmament of shared memory and pop-culture detritus, and this gentle communality allowed the viewer to forget, for a moment, things like art-value—intrinsic or otherwise. This apparent lack of ambition appears to be the work’s aspiration; it is a conflicting but appealing aspiration.

Pop, rock, punk and electronic music references, concerns and allegiances extend far into the fabric of this show. One work is a record sleeve designed for Berlin-based duo Parra for Cuva and Trash Lagoon, who played a live set at the opening of the show, which also coincided with Berlin Gallery Weekend. The record-sleeve design remixes much of the palette from the exhibition itself, with faux-earnest images of Egyptian sculpture and iconography. Its nineties-Brit-club-night aesthetic, in this instance, seemed somehow also very contemporary, as if the work were suggesting that what is naff in the new is as interesting as what is new in the naff. Innovations in the art world and the development of taste that accompanies these innovations become entangled in much of what Lambie attempts in this show of new works, but when slapstick humour and nostalgia intersect, bizarre moments of a different intensity coagulate. This is no more so than in the work Infrared, a cascading pair of well-worn but gloss-black formal shoes, one of which is fitted to the ceiling of the smaller gallery space, the other, below, hovering just above the floor—it dangling from a chain of safety pins running down from the heel of the shoe stuck to the ceiling. Around the middle section of this vertical chain is a gestural—almost haptically—constructed frame made from a complex of black plastic drinking straws connected with tyre-puncture repair tape. The work suggests a mangled footstep, a dance move, a fall. The way in which these culturally loaded and diffuse materials come together, particularly in works like this, makes it reasonable to propose that these objects and interconnections are as much a series of completely accidental recollections made real, as they are formal material things put forward for interpretation.

Jim Lambie, La Scala: Jim Lambie. Installation view, Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin. Showing (left to right) Cosmic Vortex (Deeper and Deeper), 2016. Found sofa, aluminium tape, rubber bicycle inside tubings, wire, rotary motor. Sofa approx. 200 x 100 x 85cm, inner tubes object approx. 150 x 140 x 120cm. Technodelic (Infinite fries), 2016. Potato bags, expanding foam, chrome paint on canvas, approx. 214 x 188.5 x 67.5cm. The Ballad of Buffalo Gals (La Scala), 2016. Lacquered aluminium, customised boombox with found objects, chair seat, clothing rags, safety pins, approx. 320 x 120 x 60cm; Photographs Matthias Kolb, Berlin. Courtesy Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin/Oslo.

Jim Lambie, Teardrop Boombox (La Scala), 2016. Lacquered aluminium, spoons, coloured paint pigment, cast rubber boombox, approx. 270 x 180 x 60cm, boombox rubber casts approx. 40 x 35 x 15cm; Photographs Matthias Kolb, Berlin. Courtesy Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin/Oslo.

Parra for Cuva, Trashlagoon, in collaboration with Jim Lambie, Trashlagoon //Parra for Cuva, 2016. Vinyl record, paper cover designed by Jim Lambie, 3.3 x 30.5cm. Ed. of 400; Photographs Matthias Kolb, Berlin. Courtesy Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin/Oslo.

Jim Lambie, Infrared, 2016. Shoes, gloss paint, safety pins, gaffa tape, black straws, approx. 266 x 60cm; Photographs Matthias Kolb, Berlin. Courtesy Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin/Oslo.