- Garage Exchange
For the seventeenth iteration of Garage Exchange, Benjamin Hirte and Nancy Lupo present Antwerp, a group of new sculptural and video works. Taking its title from a 1980 novella by the Chilean author and poet Roberto Bolaño, Antwerp channels a similar sense of dislocation—a constant blurring of map and territory. Like Bolaño, Hirte and Lupo are attuned to the shapes and structures of the contemporary city; the artists look intently at its liminal spaces, turning empty plazas, parking lots, and other semi-public arenas into their raw material.
Benjamin Hirte’s recent works often turn a technological eye onto these spaces, using drone videography and 3D scanning to surveil their textures and tiled walkways, forgoing the passive act of two-dimensional imaging for a more active mode of circumambulation. In his new video Antwerp, conceived especially for the exhibition, Hirte filmed and assembled a montage of footage that winds its way in and around an annular, 1980s office complex, its empty plazas and darkened windows made more ominous by a droning score of appropriated and sculpted soundscapes, lifted from a German true-crime TV series.
Nearby, Lots consists of two suspended sheets of thin black rubber, atop which seven rows of thin metal wires sprout up like seedlings. Lit by tiny LED lights, they are miniature models of tall metal area lamps, seen from above. Suddenly, the scuffed black surface of the rubber becomes an expanse of asphalt, turning into the distinctly American landscape of a parking lot at night, a space both romanticized and problematized as a site of danger and crime. On the rubber sheets’ versos, Hirte attached a poster with collaged poetry written during his residency at the MAK Center in 2013.
Nearby, a cartoonish, polyurethane beehive dimensionalizes a symbol most commonly associated with worker productivity, often seen on signage outside public and union housing.
The intertwining of care and cruelty is a common theme in Nancy Lupo’s work. Her ongoing series of benches, which replicate outdoor furnishings found in civic, commercial and imaginary space, scrutinize the manufactured cheer of municipal design. In Antwerp, she presents a new iteration in her series of Bench works, which replicate, in ¾ scale, one bench per year since 2015, sourcing originals from parks, train stations, and other civic spaces.
Her latest site of inquiry is the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters Replacement Building in downtown Los Angeles, focusing specifically on a series of identical, squiggling steel pipes, part of a sweeping plan devised by the prominent LA firm Morphosis Architects. Planted into the plaza’s cement perimeter as barricade bollards, and bisecting its wide, concrete benches, their shiny, playful shapes convey a friendliness that belies the underlying cruelty of defensive architecture. Lupo underscores this contradiction by further distilling and repeating their form; stationed outside, they function as mounts to tablet-shaped panels, embedded with grids of scaled-down wall niches, and a row of soap dishes coated in pearlescent nail polish on their opposing sides. Titled Department of Transportation and cast in solid aluminum, these works strip the original shapes of their intended, steely purpose, removing their latent cruelty and coaxing out a consideration of the built environment’s psychological and somatic gestalt.
— Written in collaboration with Juliana Halpert
Benjamin Hirte (b. 1980, Aschaffenburg, Germany) lives and works in Vienna and New York. His recent exhibitions include First Houses, Galerie Emanuel Layr, Vienna (2020); The Jurist, with Anna-Sophie Berger, CICCIO, New York (2020); Trust, Sydney, Sydney (2019); Benjamin Hirte & Chadwick Rantanen, Museo Pietro Canonica, Rome (2017); Teams, Christian Andersen Gallery, Copenhagen (2016); Open Handed, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2015).
Nancy Lupo (b. 1983, Flagstaff, AZ) lives and works in Los Angeles. Her recent projects include window where we at Galeria Dawid Radziszewski, Warsaw, Poland; Open Mouth, a public commission for Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles as part of CURRENT LA: FOOD, the 2019 Public Art Triennial; and Scripts for the Pageant, Lupo’s first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Her work was also featured in Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles – A Fiction, Mac, Lyon (2017) and Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2016); The Poet, The Critic, and the Missing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016); and Taster’s Choice, MoMA PS1, New York (2014).
About the Garage Exchange
In order to expand the cultural exchange at the core of the Artists and Architects-in-Residence program, The Austrian Federal Chancellery and the MAK Center invite Austrian and Vienna-based alumni residents to collaborate with L.A. artists and architects of their choosing at the Mackey Apartments Garage Top Gallery for the Garage Exchange Vienna-Los Angeles exhibition series.
This exhibition series is made possible by The Austrian Federal Chancellery.