Myles Starr - The Name of the Rose

25 April – 25 May 2019

Artist Talk with Chris Sharp: 23 May 2020, 7 pm

Featured on:
Mousse Magazine

Photos: Flavio Palasciano

A window looking onto the city from a room that obviously belongs to the private sphere; Remains of home decor as elements of personal stories; Objects and patterns in space, both individual and generic: In his exhibition The Name of the Rose, Myles Starr uses painting and sculpture to question forms and materials according to their values—for the artist as well as for the viewer. The answer often lies less in the fact as such, than in the indefinite posture of the work.

If you have read about [...] before you are interested in it, it's probably not a very good sculpture*

The openness of meaning is, for Umberto Eco, a central feature of art since modern times. The "open work"[i]assigns a productive role to reception, as it requires for completion the collaboration of an interpreter. Ambivalence and multiplicity of meanings trigger attraction and invite the viewers to engage with the work. Dealing with this ambiguity is also central to Starr's painterly and sculptural output.

No single presentation should have more than 12 positions*

Fundamental to his artistic approach is an orientation towards a set of rules that the artist creates, based upon his observation of contemporary art as well as negotiation with art history. Dealing with rules is less a matter of precisely following instructions than being motivated to repeatedly question and transgress one's own boundaries. By means of self-imposed restrictions, he faces the conditions of possibility in his artistic expression. This motion of “self-transcendence of aesthetic rationality”[ii] creates an ambivalent play between openness and coherence. Starr deploys these tensions in the imperatives of his practice, when he concludes, not without irony: The best work breaks the rules, but not all the work that breaks the rules is good work... not by a long shot *.

In The Name of the Rose, painting and sculpture are positioned as distinct and complementary formats, which are used in deliberately different ways. The title refers on the one hand to Umberto Eco's book, that was originally published in 1980 and which is regarded as a prototype of the postmodern novel, but also allows associations to the rose as a frequently used symbol, with connotations ranging from decorative to tacky.

In a room with too much work a pencil drawing on 8 ½ ‘ by 11’ paper will reign*

That the view of a painting resembles the view through an open window was already described in 1435 by the Renaissance scholar Leon Battista in his treatise on painting. In Starr's pictures, the window comes into focus as a motif too. Through his paintings he calls upon the aesthetics of a leopard carpet, anthropomorphic sculptures or ornamental interiors. They are fragments of memory — banal as well as powerful — of life in New York.

The visual experience of Manhattan cannot be separated from the high-rise architecture of the city. The exhibition’s sculptures are directly linked to this and emerge in a process in which the artist incorporates and reworks materials and objects from his immediate surroundings, and then alienates them and partially dissolves them again.

For Isa Genzken New York's architecture has always had something to do with sculpture; and vice versa, sculpture, for her, should always relate to life outside: "… with every sculpture you have to say: this is not a readymade, but it could be one. This is what a sculpture must look like. It must have a certain connection to reality"[iii]. The material resources for Starr’s sculptures usually come from his personal “inventory”: everyday objects, packaging materials, foam, which he used for an earlier work, or towels, which themselves are made from remnants of weaving. The sculptures refuse narrative, but allow the used fragments an aesthetic as well as socio-cultural coding. The process by which Starr creates sculpture corresponds to the sorting, assembling, and reworking of forms and objects that present themselves as the material conditions of the subject[iv].

You can teach perfect craftsmanship [...] You can not teach error [...]*

Starr's sculptural practice is guided by the motivation to produce a "good" work. This "good" refers neither to the perfection of production, nor to the solubility of work in linguistic terms, but to the tension for the unknowable This tension also relates to the modern idea of the beautiful - not in the meaning of the (nostalgically glorified) notion of the purified or complete, but as “constitutive refusal of any attempt of objectification”[v].

Starr uses these circumstances to generate a moment between potential and crisis, which productively involves the observers. The work does not end with its material production, but continues in its reception; or as Michael Dean put it in regard to his work: “…in identifying those materials which we all somehow know and understand and that are there, I feel like as the artist I can evaporate just long enough for them, for you, to feel like it actually matters that you’ve walked in through the door“[vi].

Wanting to read about it after looking at it can be a good thing*


Juliane Bischoff

 *These rules, written by Starr, were first published in Issue 6 of the magazine “Textuelle Bildhauerei,” 2018.

[i] Umberto Eco, The Open Work. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1989.

II Juliane Rebentisch “Dialektik der Schönheit. Zum Werk von Isa Genzken,“ 2007, In: Isa Genzken: Oil, ed. Nicolaus Schafhausen, Cologne: DuMont, 161 (transl. Juliane Bischoff).

[iii] Isa Genzken, quoted in Wolfgang Tillmans, „Isa Genzken: A Conversation with Wolfgang Tillmans,“ 2003, Camera Austria 81, 8.

[iv] This gesture also resonates in the activities of SORT, an artist-run space that was founded by Starr and that he operates together with artist Katharina Höglinger.

[v] Juliane Rebentisch “Dialektik der Schönheit. Zum Werk von Isa Genzken,“ 2007, In: Isa Genzken: Oil, ed. Nicolaus Schafhausen, Cologne: DuMont, 161 (transl. Juliane Bischoff)

[vi] Michael Dean, quoted in Turner Prize 2016, Michael Dean, Anthea Hamilton, Helen Marten, Josephine Pryde, 2016, London: Tate Publishing, 13.