Category / Object / Definition
For Stem System Magali Reus draws together two recently produced bodies of work: Settings and Charges, each series informing the other through their interdependent visual language of patterns, signs and images.
Material systems self-organise: they extend socially, linguistically, philosophically, to create gatherings or assemblages. To imagine a stem is to feel the tingling of newness, to read something green and bright on a dirt horizon, whose quiet visual geometry belies the complexity of the project of accumulation and renewal beneath. A Stem System then, might propose an organic network, a series of continual exchanges in which elements both natural and synthetic aggregate: the expansive curve of pollen as it drifts wild through a landscape; a wasp that perspires and drops cells cross-species; rubber car tyres and their human cargo who blow heat and blood across the planet.
Reus’s two series are predicated on this logic of systems originating with a singular motif or command, and proliferating from that point into a more complex entanglement of signs and language. Her works often begin with an existing common object – tools, appliances, devices – whose identities are intentionally ambiguous. Traditional images of thought and action, the objects Reus redeploys explain themselves as possessing function (they open, shield, protect, inform, direct, extinguish) and yet her alterations become like a kind of secondary literature for these things: they script afresh what might be materially possible for this object. In this sense, her work is deliberately and actively in conversation – a diagram of forces, a language of vital parts.
In Settings, Reus takes the common road sign as her source material. Immediate graphic communication is the architectural essence of road signs: their signage facility is the first and primary function – go this way, stop here, warning: dog/dead-end. They are mechanisms of distribution, instructing not only figures or vehicles across a geography, but mapping too the continually mutating typology of any hysterical city landscape. Over time they accrue fragments of information, contradictory patterns, or surface interferences that transform them into living collage: they are altered by weather and the debris of human intervention. In Reus’s Settings, the toughness of a baked enamel surface is made more fluid with process interruptions. Surfaces are sanded, masked, adjusted, airbrushed. In each, deliberate erosion creates a slippage of the NO PARKING function, thereby altering the original simplicity of the circle-slash pictogram with metaphor and double meaning.
Hung at head height, the Settings are like mirrors, interchangeable faces that reflect back objects from the genre of domestic melodrama (toothpaste, car air freshener, windscreen wiper). Cased behind Perspex in small recessed cavities, these images are provocative replicas of their real-life selves, inlaid like plate settings whose formal left and right arrangements set out a logic for handedness, for the proximate utility of objects significant for their relationship to the obsessively touched world.
In Charges Reus presents a series of photographic diptychs connecting flower haulage trucks with roadside weeds, flowers and once again with the more utilitarian apparatus of the road. Made with photographer Lewis Ronald, the photographic language of these diptychs borrows from both still life portraiture and a kind of baroque reportage, continually repositioning what might be considered debris or in focus. Flowers are rendered as isolated graphic forms, calligraphic in their wriggly movement. They are like letters or handwriting. Haulage trucks in turn are made newly soft, erotic and as malleable in image-terms as fabric. Often wrapped with graphic vinyl that depicts stylised floral motifs, the skins of these trucks exhibit an inherent system tautology. Removed from the system they are stylised moments of colour and volume; inside the system, they are markers of capital and an ongoing cycle of explicit distribution or erosion. Thus, returning full circle to the exhibition’s title, Stem System, Reus poetically illuminates the interconnectedness of all things, their ebb and their flow: flowers that are cultivated for commercial purposes, their roadside cousins that stand like adjacent referees, and the delivery trucks that move like ghosts in between, strange ciphers of consumption, that carry, pass and display the same object many times reinterpreted.
Forthcoming in May, JRP|Editions will release a new publication, Charges, which encompasses this series alongside Settings and is brought together by graphic designer Irma Boom. The book includes texts by Anthony Huberman, Daisy LaFarge, and Steven Zultanski.
Magali Reus was born in Den Haag, The Netherlands in 1981, and currently lives and works in London. Forthcoming solo exhibitions include Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, USA; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Ghent, BE (all 2022) and CAC Synagogue de Delme, FR (2023). Recent solo shows include As mist, description, South London Gallery, London (2018); Hot Cottons, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen (2017); Night Plants, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen (2017); Mustard, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2016); Quarters, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2016); Spring for a Ground, SculptureCenter, New York; Particle of Inch, The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield; Halted Paves, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (all 2015). Reus has been included in group exhibitions and screenings at Tate Britain, London; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; ICA, London; CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson; Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover; Kunstmuseum Winterthur, LUMA Westbau, Zürich; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; David Roberts Art Foundation, London; Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea, Lisbon, De Appel, Amsterdam and the British Art Show 8 (touring).
Reus has been shortlisted for the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture 2018, and was awarded the Prix de Rome 2015. Her work is included in international collections including Tate Collection, UK; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Centraal Museum, Utrecht; Collection CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson; Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen; Lafayette Anticipation — Fonds de dotation Famille Moulin, Paris; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; New York David Roberts Art Foundation, London; Zabludowicz Collection, London, Sarvisalo, New York; The Perimeter, London; Arts Council Collection, UK; The Government Art Collection, London; Hepworth Wakefield Collection, UK. Reus’s work is featured in three monographs, printed with Sternberg Press (2018), JRP Ringier (2017) and Mousse Publishing (2016).