‘Prologue’ denotes something introductory, preliminary – an event that promises something more after. The second of a two-part show, ‘P!CKER’, at Stanley Picker Gallery, one could be forgiven for assuming that Céline Condorelli’s ‘Prologue’ would be the closing act of ‘P!CKER’, threading together the ideas produced during Part I, a glorious and overdue solo exhibition of multidisciplinary artist and designer Elaine Lustig Cohen, who died in 2016. Yet Condorelli’s prologue is merely the latest episode in a continuous process of exchange and renewal, where the legacy of a project – in this case both Lustig Cohen’s show, and Condorelli’s own show at P! last year – is archived, mined and reworked, forming new projects, new exhibitions, and new ways of understanding the contexts within which we work.
‘P!CKER’ has been curated with Prem Krishnamurthy, whose New York experimental exhibition space P! closed in May 2017 with Condorelli’s show, notably titled ‘Epilogue’. The floor tiles from P! have been lifted and reinstalled here, elevated on a dais to artwork status and titled ‘Five years (334 Broome St, formerly P!)’ by Condorelli in homage to their original home. Strips of coloured tape reveal past iterations of the Broome Street space – the palimpsestic residue of more than 40 exhibitions that now live on as ideas they generated. For both Krishnamurthy and Condorelli, this generative nature of curating is paramount: the process of producing, and the conversations and collaborations it engenders, is privileged over the creation of any final product.
The result is that we don’t get a ‘solo’ ‘show’ from Condorelli in any sense of either word. Things are messy, layered, multiple, with several authors to one work – such as the artist’s screenprint set in a hinged frame that juts out from the wall – based on a design by Carlo Scarpa. The objects scattered about the space are forms of debris made deliberate – both in their division of the gallery and in their gestural makeup. Two of Condorelli’s ‘curtains’ – bowed sheets of corrugated fibreglass held in place with bespoke aluminium and brass brackets – are in fact transitory sculptures, where only the brackets will travel on to the next show, to hold in place whatever material might be available.
In an accompanying text commissioned for the show (listed on Condorelli’s list of works as part of her mission to properly credit her collaborators), anthropologist David Scott advocates what he terms ‘intellectual friendship’, where younger artists might learn from an older generation in a kind of pedagogical cultivation. Condorelli is clearly following Lustig Cohen here, leaving wallpaper, paint colours and even the wall text from the preceding show to expose the value of interchange and dialogue in exhibition-making. Linking the two is the figure of Herbert Bayer, the Bauhaus-trained designer and artist whose 1930 drawing ‘Extended Field of Vision’ (owned and borrowed from Lustig Cohen’s personal collection) has been enormously influential for Condorelli in its dismantling of forms of display. Hung here within a piece of cut-out wall, Condorelli nods to the gallery structures that both enable and frame our interpretation of artworks – and to the ethics of these institutions (Bayer was criticised in later life for taking commissions from the Nazis). Condorelli reveals the exhibition model to be a construct, and subsequently a vehicle for rethinking collaboration through inheritance, plurality and, most importantly, friendship.