Sphinx of Black Quartz, Judge My Vow

9 December 2020 – 30 January 2021

PALFREY is thrilled to present Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow, a show that explores elements of allegory, joke-telling and narrative postures in painting today. A pangram is a sentence designed to include all letters of the alphabet. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is one such. The show’s title is another. Many pangrams originated around the close of the nineteenth century as memorable phrases for practice in typing and printing. Pangrams have the dual character of combining a practical formalism with a recourse to narrative as a memory aid, or mnemonic. Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow is a show that compares this duality with currents in painting concerned with storytelling.

The centrepiece of the show is Ad Reinhardt’s 1944 sequence ‘How to draw political cartoons’.Understood retrospectively as a key figure in twentieth-century painting through his extraordinary double tracking of hardcore abstraction and engaged cartooning, Reinhardt can be viewed as a paradoxical advocate of allegory and joke-telling as resources essential to art’s self-descriptions. Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow comprises works by Alan Michael, Alison Yip, Barbara Wesolowska, Gunter Reski, John Chilver, Jonathan Clark, Josefine Reisch and Julia Dubsky presented alongside Ad Reinhardt.

Curated by John Chilver

OPENING Wednesday 9 December, 3 – 8pm

How to Draw Political Cartoons, PM, New York, 2nd April 1944

Ad Reinhardt was born in Buffalo, NY in 1913 and died of heart failure in 1967. His anti-expressive paintings of the 1950s and 60s anticipated minimalism. He had regular solo shows at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York most years between 1946 and 1960. Alongside his commitment to abstract painting, Reinhardt published cartoons, often satirizing the art world. From 1942 to 1947 he contributed cartoons to the New York City daily newspaper PM (‘Picture Magazine’). A survey of his writings, Art As Art, was published in 1975. He will be the subject of a retrospective at Fundaçion Juan March, Madrid in 2021.

Baseball Cap (2016), oil on canvas, 84 x 116 cm, Courtesy HIGH ART, Paris

Alan Michael’s (b Glasgow, lives in London) work focuses on indexes of social value as content in art and typically uses negatives or placeholders to represent this phenomenon. Recent solo shows include Stars of the Source, 3236RLS/ Le Bourgeois, London, 2019; Astrology and the City, Cell Projects, London, 2018; People Puzzle, Jan Kaps, Cologne, 2018.

Eiffel (2020), oil on canvas on board, 18 x 13 cm

Alison Yip (b Calgary, lives in Berlin and Brussels) works through painting, wall treatments, writing and sculpture as ways of containing the dissociative and dispersed nature of our cognitive apparatus and our relationships. Recent solo shows include Bare Heel Country, Dortmunder Kunstverein, current 2020-21; I Saw A Crow, Orca Was I, Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver, 2020; The Good Listener, Plat, Amsterdam, 2019; Truly, Madly, Deeply (Multi-purpose arts complex),  Beursschouwburg, Brussels, 2019.

Untitled (2018), oil on canvas 40 x 40 cm

In her densely wrought paintings, Barbara Wesolowska (b Wroclaw, lives in London) fuses faces, spaces and bodies to imply itineraries through overlapping relationships. Recent shows include Mirror of Impalpable Nudity, GAO Gallery, London, 2020; The Vapours, Kunstverein Bamberg, 2020; In the Flesh, Peles Empire, Berlin, 2019; A Wind in the Door, Runpeltstiltskin, New York, 2019; Lean Days of Determination, Lima Zulu, London, 2018.
from left to right: The Past is Still a Very Hungry Animal (2012) mixed media on paper, 42 x 30 cm; Autumn (2013) oil on paper, 42 x 30 cm; Untitled (1995) watercolour on paper, 42 x 30 cm

Gunter Reski (b Bochum, lives in Berlin) paints “language images” (in the phrase of Hans-Jürgen Hafner) in which verbal and visual jokes, paradoxes and entanglements are spun and interwoven. Recent solo shows include Organwanderung jetzt, Galerie Nagel Draxler, Cologne, 2018; Temporäre Haut, Galerie Karin Guenther, Hamburg, 2019; Trennungen bei Wörtern und Menschen, Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie, Bielefeld, 2020, and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin, forthcoming 2021.

The Advantages of Backwardness (2018 – 2020), oil on canvas, 30 x 25.3 cm

In John Chilver’s (b London, lives in London) current images, gestures of didactic instruction are treated equally as noise and signal. Recent solo shows include Xero, Kline & Coma, London, 2018; The Near Abroads, Atlas House, Ipswich, 2019; and The Scene of Instruction, Coleman Projects, London, (forthcoming) 2021.
The Pitch and the Patch (2020), acrylic on panel, 52 x 40 cm
A Slippery Slope (2020), acrylic on panel, 29.7 x 21 cm

Jonathan Clark’s (b Southampton, lives in London) work explores the object of painting as a model of itself. Scenes of personal anecdote, art-historical deduction, and pop-cultural intrigue play out on panels that encourage the announcement of their own parameters. His solo shows have included Early Life and Education, PALFREY, London, 2018 and A Fitter Background, Goldsmiths Gallery, London, 2015
A Double Whodunnit (Dido) (2020), oil and metal leaf on canvas, 80 x 50 cm

Josefine Reisch (b Berlin, lives in Berlin) examines biographical histories in relation to portraiture in her recent work, especially with regard to gender and the connotations of styles of picture framing and architectural decoration. Recent solo and duo shows include plus que moi, Kunsthaus NRW, Aachen- Kornelimünster, 2016; LOVERS II/ Houseworming with Philip Seibel, Sundy, London, 2019; Framing, Galerie Noah Klink, Berlin, 2020.

Smut Books (2020), pencil and ink on paper, both 21 x 14.5 x 1.5 cm

Julia Dubsky (b Dublin, lives in Berlin) makes images that dwell in the interzones between perception, memory, fantasy, naming and depiction. These are often initiated and provoked by writing inventories of items which are then encountered during the improvisation of the image. Recent solo shows include The Marshland Akimbo, Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London, 2019 and Salon of Good Time, Residency Studio, Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin, 2018.

All photography: Damian Griffiths

© PALFREY 2021