REVIEW: Response to “You Do the Math” at Jackie Klempay Gallery



Written By: Conor O’Brien,[at]gmail[dot]com

In undressing, both body and clothing inherit a vulnerability, the aura of nakedness. Curiously intimate, encountering another’s wardrobe: an identity disassembled, dissected. The widespread use of washing and drying machines is based not only in convenience, but most importantly in the preservation of the sacred aura of privacy they afford. We treat the washing of our clothes with nearly the same attention to privacy with which we treat the washing of our own bodies. And while stricter, the limits we place on who may see our unclothed bodies are similar to the limits we place on who may see our disembodied clothes. Privacy preserves the identity’s delicate impenetrability. The image of our clothing reduced to a potential state indicates the extent identity depends on them. The symbiosis of cloth and flesh: what the body gains from the garments that adorn it, so do those garments gain from the bodies they adorn.















The main installation in MacGregor Harp’s show “You Do the Math” at Jackie Klempay Gallery consists of several racks of clothing set up in the gallery’s backyard. There is a sense of displacement: these objects have been transported from inside to outside, from a place of impenetrable privacy to a place of pure vulnerability. Yet even stranger  than displacement are the accompanying senses of appropriateness and familiarity: moved outside, how closely these racks resemble trees, the floral patterns on some garments recall branches heavy with foliage. It is not uncommon for the inner and outer worlds to interact with and seep into each other. Within the privacy of our homes we allow vestiges of the outside world to adorn, flowers and potted plants, paintings of landscapes, open windows act both as barriers and portals. While outside we set up furniture, build patios and fences, extend shadows of the private world. When an item is displaced from its natural environment, it adapts to the new one. Throughout the vast cloth of civilization there are holes and windows where the flesh of nature breaks through: city and national parks, both barriers and portals.


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Exposed flesh is an empathic stimulus; is it because these sheets of cloth, the ghosts of identities, remind us of flesh that we have the same reaction when we encounter them exposed? Morbid considerations emerge: flayed skin swinging from limbs of trees, displayed here, perhaps, as a warning to trespassers, or perhaps removed in the interest of scientific experimentation (vivisection is the most extreme form of undressing). The ghost of gender is here too: the wardrobe is deliberately feminine, and belongs to the artist’s fiancee, as do the tufts of hair that sprout from the top of each rack. This gesture, the incorporation of hair into the installation, draws associations between the synthetic fur represented by the clothing with real, organic human fur. Clothing is the vestigial phantom of fur shed from our genes in millennia past. Gooseflesh is the skin’s longing for a lost protector, the present-absence of body hair lingering above exposed skin. These displaced reflexes persist, senile languages from old evolutions. The hair anthropomorphizes the clothing racks, though there is already something abstractly human in their design.














The work in MacGregor Harp’s exhibition makes use of subtle gesture, minimalist arrangement, and understated display: one installation, a bowl of cigarettes set in a corner on the floor, could easily be overlooked by inattentive passers-by. Another piece, a pack of cigarettes displayed on top of a printed cloth, simply presents the object for uncomplicated consideration, where the full weight and irony of the phrase “American Spirit,” coupled with the native mascot, speaks for itself. Cigarettes, an omnipresence with a tinge of the forbidden, somehow ubiquitous, mundane, and yet generally frowned-upon, a commodified taboo, a dangerous comfort, a self-destructive system, that functions in disappearing: these associations reveal themselves. Harp’s choice of subjects is not particularly biased; cigarettes and flowers are the two major ones, and are juxtaposed in some ways (the size and white-grey scheme of Cigs contrasts starkly with his Flowers series), though the artist also incorporates into his work sports logos, newspaper comics, and, of course, clothing. The artist’s fascination lies with these overlooked objects and symbols, which have a consistent but rarely considered daily presence, and in representing them Harp employs a delicate playfulness that slides from the abstract, to the personal, to the absurd.

















Location: 81 Central Ave

Hours: Saturday, 1-5pm

Contact: klempayj[at]gmail[dot]com


REVIEW: Stoned Apes and Good Vibrations: The Work of Josef Bull

Stoned Apes and Good Vibrations: The Work of Josef Bull
by Aviram Yap, Guest Contributor (

VIDEO: Josef Bull – Full Body Didgeridoo from Josef Bull on Vimeo.

Josef Bull’s latest exhibition is psychedelic, mind-bending, and as scientific as ever. In conjunction with the opening of his exhibition Casa Piramidal, this past weekend at Bushwick’s Jackie Klempay Gallery, Bull organized a performance with his PVC-pipe Didgeridoo sculpture, which enables full-body sound bathing for participating audience members, featuring musician AJ Block.

Bull weaves a fine line throughout his examination of spiritual phenomenon conducted in domestic environments.  He takes easily dismissible subject matter, such as the didgeridoo or DIY culture, and tweaks it just enough to make you wonder if Bull is critical of, or embracing of, this mash of cultures on display. People current on druggie-hippie-rave culture understand that this group has wholeheartedly embraced the “didge,” instantly transforming an Aboriginal Australian wind instrument into an object of controversy.

When asked about his choice of subject matter, Bull responded by saying, “I like the didgeridoo as a ‘material’ because it’s so hated. Didgeridoo players are hated! Jim who I collaborate with in Sweden regularly has experienced people spitting and shouting at him because of their hatred for the didgeridoo. It’s insane. I’m interested in these cliche spiritual and often mass produced attributes. Like didges and hippie shirts from nepal. I like ‘low’ materials and to see how they transform with different contexts. The cool thing though is that every didgeridoo player I’ve met through the project this far has been anything but cliche and incredibly interesting and intelligent.”

Following Bull’s explanation, it should be made clear that his didges are anything but hated. Bull succeeds at taking despised subject matter, extracting the essence, and producing an inquisitive object that embodies any relevant attributes it may possess.  Indeed it takes real skill to be able to turn something so hated into high art.

The first major attribute setting it apart from the hippie didge, is the complex construction and performative aspect. Seeking out and hiring the local didge expert is part of the process, which culminates when gallery-goers lay within the instrument so that they can meditate while completely enveloped by sound and vibration.  There are 7 openings for air to flow through – 1 for the musician to blow into, 2 for the ears, 2 for the breasts, 1 for the belly button, and 1 for the groin. (It hits all the chakras.) The PVC pipes are painted with a stone-craft patina, and placed on a hand-woven yak-wool blanket.  When the performance is not happening, most people do not realize that the object has anything other than a purely aesthetic purpose — it is indeed a curiously beautiful apparatus.

Internet-based research is also a huge resource for Bull’s work.  He’s inspired by amateur enthusiasts, garage scientists and fringe thinkers sharing their work on the web.  Framed and overlooking the entire space is one of the characters he came across while surfing youtube – the owner of Casa Piramidal, a pyramid-shaped mansion in Santa Catarina, Brazil. In the back room, there is a video projection of a suburban backyard. When you don the headphones, vibrating ‘OMs’ fill your ears. Both of these visual and audio elements were culled from the internet.

Adorning one gallery corner is a “rain stick” covered in luscious salt crystals that the mad-scientist Bull grew onsite with bluing and ammonia. In the garden space, the thread between inexplicable meditation techniques and casual Western comfort continues. Three butterfly sporting chairs sit in the grass, outfitted with copper-piping and chic pyramid-shaped crowns. Beside them is an analogous cooler of beer.

Born 1984 in Stockholm Sweden, this is Josef Bull’s first solo show in New York.  He  graduated from Konstfack University College of Arts in 2009 and has exhibited internationally at Museum of Ethnograpy Stockholm; Mare Gallery, Crete; Hanaholmen Cultural Center, Helsinki;  Forgotten Bar / Galerie Im Regierungsviertel, Berlin;  Peter Bergman Gallery, Stockholm. He’s a co-founder and editor of the publishing house and artist collective Nautofon. With such a stunning exhibition history and this New York debut, I can’t wait to see what curiosities the young Bull has up his sleeve next.  Until then, this show is a must-see.  Jackie Klempay Gallery is open the night of the opening, always by appointment, and usually on Wednesday evenings 7:30-9:30 pm.

AROUND TOWN: Exhibition at Jackie Klempay Gallery, “Josef Bull: Casa Piramidal”

josef bull - casa piramidal


Exhibition Dates: November 16 to December 31, 2013
Jackie Klempay Gallery, 81 Central Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Gallery Hours: Wednesdays, 7:30pm to 9:30pm and By Appointment
For More Information Contact: 

From their website:

Guided by garage scientists and fringe thinkers, youtube videos and dust bunnies of the internet, Josef Bull cross-breeds western backyard culture with tools of transcendence. This exhibition includes a series of meditation-pyramid folding chairs and a functioning PVC-pipe Didgeridoo that enables full-body sound bathing, providing solutions for spiritual experiences in domestic settings. 

Josef Bull (b. 1984) graduated from Konstfack University College of Arts in Stockholm, Sweden in 2009.  He has exhibited internationally at Museum of Ethnograpy Stockholm; Mare Gallery, Crete; Hanaholmen Cultural Center, Helsinki;  Forgotten Bar / Galerie Im Regierungsviertel, Berlin;  Peter Bergman Gallery, Stockholm. He’s a co-founder and editor of the publishing house and artist collective Nautofon.

We thank The Swedish Arts Grants Committee for their generous support of this exhibition.