Thursday 14th September, 6-8pm
SANDY BROWN is pleased to present “Body Hero” by Dena Yago. Comprised of paintings and a video essay, this solo presentation of all new work is the artist’s third exhibition at the gallery.
The elements of “Body Hero” combine to explore the landscape of New York City undergoing a particular transformation of hollowness. Cropped and zoomed-in cityscape views span Yago’s canvases. Each in portrait-format, they show detritus from the shuttered Glossier store on Lafayette Street, photographed by the artist in Autumn 2020. We see a vision of ruin in the form of loaded trash bags, cardboard boxes, hardshell suitcases strewn across the footpath — the guts of a once throbbing retail flagship thrown to the curb in piles of bloodless decomposition, after a harried mid-pandemic closure of this location.
Glossier is a minimal yet inclusive make-up and skincare brand, but as far as Yago is concerned, it could be any brand. The artist’s interest is rather in how the phenomenon of experiential retail could be seen as indicative of a larger behavioural trend: brands turning to tropes of community-building in physical stores, viewing the products themselves as secondary to data gathering and content generation. Yago looks at how the strategies of shopping spaces such as Glossier — now the archetype for immersive IRL retail with decked-out photo rooms, elaborate interior sets, etc. — trade on an illusory value, masking far murkier backwaters of the logistical turn.
From Yago’s textual images on canvas and the banality of what dismantled affect-oriented consumption can look like, we drift with the video work ‘Quantum of Want’. Here, footage was shot during 2023 across and between various experience venues – including INTER_, Museum of Ice Cream, House of Cannabis, and Hall des Lumières. Throughout the video, text is stamped and scrolled across Yago’s physical and cerebral POV. We follow astute, visceral personal impressions as well as more straight-up descriptions of what she and then we see, whilst moving through the streets and spaces of downtown NYC.
Compared to Yago’s earlier photographs used as the basis for the paintings, the city in the video has dubiously and infinitely changed. She grasps at a language which can describe this evolving landscape: one filled and reconfigured by its habitation of projection-mapped, selfie-ready interiors and ghost spaces; venues dealing in an elusive sense of worth, where the medium itself is transactional and frictionless. Yago refers to the intermediation of space so that the essence of its trade is obscured. We are no longer led to seek direct contact with the product, the object, or the artwork itself, but instead, sold the opportunity to consume and proliferate its image. Ease and convenience are the commodities. How do we process the meeting of a janky technological experience with the embodied, analogue needs of being a body in the world which is ceaselessly buffering?
— Text by Fiona Bate with Hannah Stein and Dena Yago
Photos by dotgain.info
Special thanks to Montez Press Radio, Zora Moniz, Sam Korman, Justin Suazo, Senay Mathaeus Beserat, Amy Patton