White Cube New York Announces Inaugural Exhibition, Opening October 3




White Cube New York Photo © White Cube (Nicholas Venezia).

White Cube is pleased to announce the opening of its first permanent New York gallery and its inaugural exhibition Chopped & Screwed, on view October 3 – 28, 2023. White Cube New York is located on the Upper East Side at 1002 Madison Avenue between 77th and 78th and is housed in a landmark building and former bank built for the Fulton Trust Company in 1930. Retaining many of its original exterior features, including a large flagpole and stone bust of the bank’s founder Robert Fulton on the top of the building, the interior has been fully renovated to accommodate three levels of exhibition space and private viewing rooms spanning over 8,000 square feet.

The inaugural exhibition, Chopped & Screwed, is curated by Courtney Willis Blair (Senior Director, US), and considers the use of sourcing and distortion in contemporary art to resist established systems of power and value.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden, The Lover, off the road (after Barbara) 1972-2021. Black paint and metal chrome on BMW R75/5 motorcycle. 139.1 x 215.9 x 88.9/54 3/4 x 85 x 35 in. ‘Chopped & Screwed’ 3-28 October, 2023, Image courtesy White Cube New York.

The exhibition’s title makes oblique reference to the technique of the same name, popularised by the late Houston musician DJ Screw in the early 1990s. The selection of artists for the show apply similar approaches to medium, form and aesthetic inheritances, each challenging, undermining or malforming existing hegemonic conditions and prevailing narratives.

Bringing together a group of artists exemplary of the gallery’s global network from both inside and beyond the roster, the exhibition includes works by David Altmejd, Michael Armitage, Georg Baselitz, Mark Bradford, Theaster Gates, General Idea, Robert Gober, Philip Guston, David Hammons, Mona Hatoum, Christian Marclay, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Julie Mehretu, Adrian Piper, Pope.L, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Carol Rama, Ilana Savdie, and Danh Vo.

Chopped & Screwed’, White Cube New York Installation View, 3- 28 October, 2023. © the artist. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christells)

With a focus on authoritarian governance, patriarchy and religion, the artists interrogate the power inherent to archetypes, whether material, structural or symbolic. It is a deliberate application of clandestine methods, both subtle and exacting, to establish new visual language. Often starting from familiar motifs and objects, the use of sampling becomes a transgressive act that implicates the conflicts of contemporary life. In turn, their reconfigurations constitute alternative readings to both conditions of power and realities of living.

Julie Mehretu, Rubber Gloves (O.C.), 2018, Ink and Acrylic on Canvas. 243.8 x 182.9 cm/96 x 72 in. ‘Chopped & Screwed’ 3-28 October, 2023, Image courtesy White Cube New York.

The use of elongation, a literal drawing out, is notable in the work of Julie Mehretu. Responding to a moment in time that is defined by the twin processes of urgency and gratification, Mehretu chooses to encumber the original image—drawn from heavily mediatized scenes of world conflict—with soft, layered, notational marks, thereby encouraging the viewer to consider what lies beyond the immediacy of the abstract composition.The act of erasure and illegibility is equally at play in Mark Bradford’s I Can’t Stand Up Straight (2010), a mixed media work whose passages of dense, built-up color and agitations of ruptured incisions confound the ‘inbuilt history’ of the very materials Bradford incorporates—often remnants of billboard posters, magazines, and newsprint found in the vicinity of his studio.

The material manipulations of David Hammons also partake in tactics of refusal and inscrutability. In Air Jordan (1988), a tire is slashed and barnacled by rusted bottle caps that are bent to mimic the form of cowrie shells. In its economy of form and gesture, Hammons makes sly reference to the interrelations of sports, sexuality, and masculinity.

‘Chopped & Screwed’, White Cube New York Installation View, 3- 28 October, 2023. © the artist. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christells)

A similar instinct towards the illegibility of an image is at the heart of Pope.L’s ‘Skin Sets’, in whose practice techniques of obfuscation are also central In Occluded Middle (2011/22), torn book pages from Betty Wood’s TheOrigins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies(1997) are applied to the picture plane, pointing to the origins of chattel slavery and the Middle Passage. This deconstruction of source material creates a distorted corpus of language that chronicles histories of slavery. Combining landscape drawing, note-taking, and an assemblage of studio objects, Pope.L references the performativity of action painting by drawing through the ripped paper, which disrupts the reading of the text. As the title infers, Pope.L’s navigation of ‘Blackness’—as a racial category subject to both hyper visibility and invisibility—foremost departs from strategies of opacity.

The idea of interference is performed differently in Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s A MERCYIV (2023), a wall-based work which employs the ready made to investigate dynamics of power. Comprising the headgate of a cattle squeeze chute, McClodden interprets this structure as a point of arrival, considering the mercy offered by this contraption which is used to restrain and placate cattle in preparation for slaughter. There is, perhaps, a confrontational quality to the object—the implied violence to this act of restraint tempered by the seductive quality of the hand-painted matte black surface—which invites the viewer to question their own relationship to power, dominance, and submission.

Michael Armitage, Mimi Ni Mwizi Ya Soko, 2023, Oil on Lubugo bark cloth. 59 1/16 x 39 3/8 in. (150 x 100 cm). ‘Chopped & Screwed’ 3-28 October, 2023 White Cube New York. Image courtesy White Cube New York

A sense of the contradictory nature of displaced objects, of the absurd even, is evident in the work of Mona Hatoum. In Still Life (medical cabinet) I (2023), jewel-colored, handblown glass grenades populate a glass-fronted display cabinet. The rows of ornamental objects whose fragile forms evoke capacities of violence and destruction impart a dark humor.Both the glorification and commodification of war are present in this work. This engagement with the complexity of conflict, whether at the hands of the state or the mob, can be discerned in Michael Armitage’s painting Mimi Ni Mwizi Ya Soko (2023). Depicting a serpent-clad figure standing behind a market thief, their face flushed puce and a sign reading ‘I Am A Market Thief ’in Swahili around their neck, the composition evokes the scene of a lynching, and like McClodden’s headgate, intimates the relationship between executioner and executed, the oppressor and the oppressed.

Similar themes of violence inform Philip Guston’s drawing Inside (1969 )and Theaster Gates’s tapestry, Civil Color Spectrum(2023). In Guston’s work, hooded figures in Klansmen’s robes are rendered lumbering and buffoonish. As an artist who grappled with personal complicity in the legacies of White supremacy, Guston’s charcoal drawing externalizes uneasy identifications with evil—a commitment that continues to provoke a re-examination of one’s selfhood. In contrast, Gates’s brightly hued fire hoses are reduced to panels of color and form that correspond to the vocabulary of Modernism. These decommissioned hoses are defunct conduits, having been emptied and flattened into color field ‘paintings’

Theaster Gates, Civil Color Spectrum, 2023. Wood and decommissioned fire hose. 213.4 x 274.3 x 12.7 cm/84 x 108 x 5 in. ‘Chopped & Screwed’ 3-28 October, 2023. White Cube New York. Image courtesy White Cube New York.

General Idea, like Gates, reference formalist techniques in their pursuit of knowledge as a discreet form of ammunition. Great AIDS (Black)(1991/2019) hails from the Toronto-based collective’s prolific body of work,created in response to the silence of elected officials during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, many of whom would never publicly acknowledge the disease as it spread worldwide. This artwork, with its muted and estranging inky depth, is a direct reference to Ad Reinhardt’s ‘Black Paintings’ and Robert Indiana’s ‘LOVE’ series, both of which were created to counteract such denial by rendering it visible.

Carol Rama was born in Turin, an automakers town in Italy, where she spent most of her life. Working within a fascist state, Rama’s work was a direct rejection of bodily ideals. She placed eroticism and desire at the core of the work, referencing late-Surrealism and elements of Arte povera. Presagi di Birnam (Omens of Birnam) (1977), comprised of deflated tubing hung haplessly against a black background, serves as both a humorous allusion to, and direct questioning of, the role of masculinity and the impact of industrialization.

David Altmejd, The Whaler, 2023. Epoxy clay, epoxy gel, expanding foam, steel, resin, concrete, hair, wood, acrylic paint, glass rhinestones, gold leaf, pencil, stone and thread. 91.4 x 53.3 x 96.5 cm/36 x 21 x 38 in. ‘Chopped & Screwed’ 3-28 October, 2023 White Cube New York. Image courtesy White Cube New York.

Through their practice, Ilana Savdie and David Altmejd consider the fragile relationship between host and parasite and Man and beast respectively. In monochrome works on paper, Savdie’s volatile and fluid figurations appear to gestate within embryonal hollows whose borders are similarly unstable. In their fusions of form, which the artist describes as an ‘alphabet’, viewers detect details of fingernails, claws, and cellular patterns among amorphous regions of interpenetrating flesh, imaging a restless abstraction of parasitical relations. The uncanny, interspecies grotesquery of Altmejd’s sculptures also thrive in the convergence of life-forms, where metamorphoses challenge the sovereignty of a human or animal body.In these twinned sculptures, Altmejd wrestles with the Jungian theory of the collective unconscious, where ancestral memories become archetypes which establish instinctual behaviors. In their mutated forms, each bears the evocation of the unconscious as a mercurial hinterland.

As more light is shed through historical accounts on the dynamics of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s relationships, accusations have emerged of his infidelity and the subsequent sequestering of this narrative for a greater purpose of progress for Black Americans. In Fighting Kings (2023), Nathaniel Mary Quinnusesa collage-like painting style to reveal the tension between the couple. Through a deft draftsmanship, the viewer is encouraged to question what is taken to be true and to consider the heightened, and often hidden, power dynamics at play in public relationships.

The oft prophetic nature of the works in ‘Chopped & Screwed’ offer a window into the ongoing wrestle that can exist between institutions of power and our subject hood. Robert Gober’s Untitled (Drain)(1993)—a recreation of the everyday sink or shower drain in chrome-plated bronze, and a recurring motif in Gober’s oeuvre—is marked at its center by across. Examining the symbolism of Gober’s use of the drain, with an understanding of the artist’s troubled relationship with Catholicism and his struggles with his own queer identity, the object becomes highly symbolic. Drain conjures the corporeal as it evokes the unseen channels through which waste travels, while its cruciform detail points to an industrialized religious symbolism that pervades domesticity.

Georg Baselitz, Francis in Willich, 2023. Oil on Canvas. 290 x 210 cm/114 3/16 x 82 11/16 in. ‘Chopped & Screwed’ 3-28, 2023 White Cube New York. Image courtesy White Cube New York.

The 16th-century French relic of a wounded Christ, re-cast by Danh Vo, is an artwork that similarly addresses conflicting identities and senses of self. Stripped of its religious function, it serves as an affirmation of Vo’s interest in the influence of institutions on collective and individual identity. In Untitled (2016), Vo explores structures of power through a simple packing box with a bygone American flag applied to its interior in gold leaf, the Budweiser logo decorating its exterior. With its ubiquitous cardboard ground, this artwork represents an elegiac consideration of the paradoxes and tensions between sovereignty and globalization. Like Vo, Georg Baselitz considers the fragility of an established order, particularly as it relates to Germany’s history as both a military and economic superpower. In Francis in Willich (2023), Baselitz draws on the charged symbol of the eagle. The bird, associated with conquest and heroism, is typically represented soaring to the heavens, but in this work, the wings of the eagle are folded, rendering it static and submissive.

‘Chopped & Screwed’, White Cube New York Installation View, 3- 28 October, 2023. © the artist. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christells)

The uprooting of established structures often leads toa collective anxiety, a sentiment captured so vividly by Christian Marclay’s ‘Scream’ photographs (2020). Their faces splintered and fractured, Marclay’s works on paper articulate the impact of a silent scream.The final work encountered in the exhibition is a window to another world, upon which Adrian Piper has inscribed the words ‘Everything Will Be Taken Away’. This direct declaration carries a gravity that is, perhaps, liberating in its matter-of-factness.

Each of the artists presented here interrogates the power inherent to archetypes, whether material, structural ,or symbolic. Through the deliberate application of sometimes clandestine methods, both subtle and exacting, and often starting from familiar motifs and objects, the use of sampling becomes a transgressive act that speaks of the conflicts of contemporary life. In turn, their reconfigurations constitute alternative readings to both conditions of power and realities of living.

Tracey Emin, The Beginning and The end of Everything, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy White Cube.

Following the inaugural exhibition, the gallery will present new paintings by Tracey Emin in a solo presentation titled Lovers Grave on view November 4, 2023 – January 13, 2024, the artist’s first solo show in New York in 7 years. In 2024, the gallery will present solo exhibitions of work by Theaster Gates opening January 31, followed by Etel Adnan, and Antony Gormley in the spring.

White Cube represents more than 60 artists including Isamu Noguchi, Julie Mehretu, David Hammons, David Altmejd, Theaster Gates, Gilbert & George, Klára Hosnedlová, Marguerite Humeau, Rachel Kneebone, TARWUK, Magnus Plessen, Ilana Savdie, Damien Hirst, and Chuck Close, to name just a few.

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Other news in the area, White Cube will be located not far from Frick Madison, located at 75th Street. The Frick Collection will vacate the Breuer Building in March, 2024. LGDR opened its flagship gallery at 19 East 64th Street; Close by, Arader Galleries, Gagosian, Acquavella Galleries, Alexandre Gallery, Christopher Bishop Fine Art, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and many many more.

Follow the Madison Avenue BID for updates on the Upper East Side gallery walks and events taking place on October 28, 2023.