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In Tanya Bonakdar Gallery’s entry corridor, a small television monitor plays to the right of a segmented plastic partition, there to separate gallery staff from visitors. On the monitor, Larry Johnson’s Paul Rand’s Women, 1948 (1984) loops. The partition, which owes to the Covid-19 pandemic, inadvertently layers subtle doom into Johnson’s jauntily phobic rumination on revered graphic designer Rand’s cover for a 1948 publication. Johnson shifts the individual typeset letters here and there across the screen, first forming men, then omen, then women—as if men and women were linked by a warning.
The works in Tanya Bonakdar Gallery’s group exhibition Restless Index, curated by artists Cayetano Ferrer and Kelly Akashi, foreground the parts from which languages are built, venerating an experiential alphabet at the expense of fully-formed words. The index, as Rosalind Krauss defined it in the 1970s, serves as a clue or trace pointing beyond the boundaries of the work, and Restless Index on the whole politely meets this description. Whether or not restlessness compelled their creation, the indexical cores of many works in this show unfold with focus.
Sean Townley’s Fallen Rider, 1792 (2019) consists of bullet-shaped lead pendants hanging on thin chains attached to a high, gridded armature. The inconsistent lengths and multitude of pieces come together to suggest a ghostly form—the press release notes that Townley’s implied figure derives from a statue of Louis XIV, destroyed during the French Revolution. Here, Townley evaporates an impression, dispersing a weighty historical surface into a cloud of points and pushing the index into its own realm of experience, independent of its source monument.
Eschewing the monumental, Madeline Hollander’s drawings assemble a series of animated, differing figures; several of Hollander’s works translate dance-y movement into graphic steps hard to square with the elasticity of even the most limber human bodies. Another drawing of Hollander’s shows the dismantling and re-mantling of a starfish, one torn leg at a time. The depictions of the unlucky animal’s journey back to wholeness flank a series of variously configured hands holding objects indicated by dashed outlines. Hollander compresses complex movements into flat, diagrammatic space, fuzzing the diagram’s typical aim of translating complexity into legibility.
Michael Queenland’s three floor works offer compression of a different sort. In his ungrouted grids of tile, Queenland intersperses geometric pieces of marble and granite with tiles featuring photo decals of litter from the streets of Rome. The perverse veneration of refuse is perhaps the exhibition’s most concise distillation of its title. These cards, receipts, and flyers announcing destined-to-be-outdated information, fired into such a durable medium, suggest hoarder psychology even in their arranged formality. Queenland poignantly historicizes items and bits of no contemporary value, refusing their disappearance.
Each of the works in Restless Index piques the viewer without inviting us fully in. Restlessness is something I associate both with free association and poor focus—a kind of free, wandering but frictive play that isn’t always delightful. Michael Queenland’s works grasp this coarser texture of the restless, so long as litter disturbs your conscience. There’s ultimately a cerebral chill to Restless Index, perhaps by design, wherein its indexical works trouble the limiting nature of abstract systems, but remain suspended in the same formalized systems they attempt to upend.
Restless Index runs from September 26–November 7, 2020 at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (1010 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038).