new michigan

viola klein at mathew gallery

Hidden behind the seemingly boarded up windows of Mathew Gallery, Cologne-based artist Viola Klein presents haunting traces and documented remains of Detroit, a city eviscerated by post-Fordist economic infrastructure. The exhibition, only the gallery's fourth since its inception, confronts one with an intimidating wall of posters that refer back to the show's opening and its accompanying event “New Michigan” at About Blank. The paper facade is a double move, acting both as a hark back to a celebration and as a vacated memory inciting hesitancy, that immediately gifts a sense of the exhibition's interior.

Upon entry, the viewer is confronted by a tense and desolate visual silence. Only a single work is presented in the ground floor space, which hangs precariously above a set of descending stairs. A black and white photograph of the sun beating down upon four blank panoramic windows framed by a mass of almost entirely faceless bricks, Agave stands in a stark juxtaposition with the gallery's own windows. The hollowed image is marked primarily by what it lacks. Empty of any discernible life, the photo delivers an unemotional impression of what once was, what used to be, what no longer is.

The reticence of Agave and its surroundings resonates within the exhibition's final piece, situated below in the gallery's office space. In the corner of the room, a small monitor nestles amongst a set of shelves narrowcasting the short black and white looped film Stinktree. Translated from 16mm to DVD, the film is a reflective monologue that captures the gentle image of a tree blindly swaying to the rhythm of the wind. Its subtlety calmly opens the space to dwell on and think over the careful curation and strict selection of the exhibition.

To describe this show as minimal would be a nominal inaccuracy. The exhibition is filled with nothing—an absence that mimics the shell of a city Detroit has become. Overt didacticism remains kept at bay for there is no need. Viola Klein's thoughtful articulations in weightless monotones induce the exhausting loss of hope after capitalism's sojourn to Michigan's Motor City.

by Louis Hartnoll

[Image: Installation view, "New Michigan," courtesy Matthew Gallery]