Nick Relph

New York

at Gavin Brown's Enterprise


This was Nick Relph’s first solo show (after a decade collaborating with fellow British artist Oliver Payne), and he front-loaded it with his own six-page press release on the economic history of dyes. The exhibition, which encompassed works on paper and a three-channel video, made heavy use of the additive primary colors (red, green and blue), while focusing on a trio of themes: tartan plaids, Ellsworth Kelly and Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo. Many of the show’s pieces (all works 2010) re-present, with minor humorous alterations, the literal or metaphorical packaging—gift wrapping, exhibition posters, documentaries, corporate graphics—associated with these subjects.

In Do the Needful, zippers have been added to a poster for a Kelly show at the Walker Art Center, making its three nested monochrome rectangles, in the show’s signature colors, eerily resemble Kawakubo wallets. Money Ar Go Runn For Ears With No Y comprises eight pseudo business cards from art institutions like the Louvre and the Guggenheim arranged in a grid on a green background sheet. Letters excised here and there from the cards are reassembled below the grid to spell out “Comme des Garcons.”

Brand-building (in art as in fashion) clearly seems to preoccupy this artist, emerging on his own at the age of 31. The show’s largest component was a freestanding booth with walls painted monochrome red, green and blue to recall the kitschy high-end caravans in the Comme des Garçons London flagship-cum-shrine, Dover Street Market. Inside played the video Thre Stryppis Quhite Upon ane Blak Field, a composite of blue, green and red projections, offering superimposed documentaries about Kelly, Kawakubo and the history of tartan. The soundtracks clash and compete in occidental/oriental registers. The tricolor projection mimics the layering technique often used to print color photographs, but without the sharpness and clarity favored by publishers. Nevertheless, we manage to glean from the simultaneous films that each “product” (from clan-based tartan to Kelly exhibition to Kawakubo accessory) is created by a large team under the auspices of an auteur—a method not unlike artistic practice in earlier times. Since Relph himself shares this approach, it will be exciting to see how his practice develops.

Photo: Nick Relph: Thre Stryppis Quhite Upon ane Blak Field, 2010, triple CRT projection; at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.