Ser Serpas Hall

Swiss Institute, New York 25 January – 23 April

- Cassie Packard

Ser Serpas first garnered attention for her sculptures wrought from urban detritus in 2017, when they featured in her solo show at Miami’s Quinn Harrelson / Current Projects. Operating at the nexus of the dérive and the dumpster dive, the Los Angeles-born artist-poet scours the streets of those metropolis­es where she has upcoming exhibition­s in search of suitable casto‹s: mattresses, strollers, bathtubs. She proceeds to transmogri­fy the junk in performanc­es that no one sees, twisting, stripping and stacking it into sculptures whose pathos and presence draw out the animacy and a‹ect of such objects in our late-capitalist epoch.

Serpas’s latest exhibition foils any inclinatio­n to pigeonhole the twenty-eight-year-old’s evolving practice: here are dozens of photograph­s of the choreograp­hies behind her sculptures; seven heroically scaled paintings of bodies; and four vitrines containing old journal entries. Though sculpture is omnipresen­t through the photos, the lone sculpture onsite is a crimson floor installati­on, Partition Play (2023), which repurposes the museum’s own architectu­re. Serpas has sourced a wall from the last exhibition in the space (a survey of

Colombian-american artist Karen Lamassonne), smashed it up and laid it flat. This ersatz red carpet takes up questions that range from philosophi­cal – does architectu­re remember?

– to pragmatic – what happens to temporary gallery infrastruc­ture after a show’s run?

Photograph­s, made by Serpas and artist Rafik Greiss in Paris, open a window onto Serpas’s sculptural process as it unfolds in the street, in the woods and in warehousel­ike interiors.

By the Highway (¼½º Stills) (2023), an intermitte­ntly glitchy 31-image series, captures the jumpsuit-clad artist wrestling with a detached car door as the heavy steel resists her, or standing on two wooden slats atop a folded mattress, pushing the bulky object to adopt a new posture. While Partition Play ri‹s on Minimalist floor pieces, Serpas’s dances with everyday objects recall Minimalist choreograp­hies built around banal props like mattresses and ramps – though Serpas’s choice of discarded items suggests interest in the objects’ psychic residues and places in chains of consumptio­n.

In oil paintings executed on large uneven cuts of jute, Serpas renders fleshy bodies with thick, vigorous strokes that chime with the physicalit­y of her sculptures. Images lurch towards abstractio­n as cropped, anonymised body parts overtake the frame: two untitled paintings from 2022 depict a woman’s torso marked by smears of pink, and a soft belly with a drippy black navel, respective­ly. Serpas bases her paintings on old cell-phone photos – of lovers, friends and herself – as well as pre-op photos sourced online, which sometimes relate to her own experience of transition­ing. Treating these images as found objects, she transforms intimate material from her own life into pictures that skew opaque and impassive. Likewise, her dismembere­d college Moleskine notebooks – full of plans for performanc­es, doodles resembling breasts and eyelashes, song lyrics and confession­al texts – use old memories and emotions as the basis for deadpan readymades: a project that is at once profoundly personal and a subversion of the vulnerabil­ity and transparen­cy routinely demanded from artists, perhaps particular­ly those from marginalis­ed groups, whom the artworld often presses to make legible, biographic­al work. It’s a pressure I hope she keeps applying.

 ?? ?? Hall, 2023 (installati­on view). Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York
Hall, 2023 (installati­on view). Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York

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