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Happy Meal, 2010, epoxy paint on street signs, stainless steel bolts, galvanized steel rod, light bulb, fixture, h.12” x diam.10” x diam.10”, Collage, inkjet on paper, h.61” x w.56”

Chris Hanson & Hendrika Sonnenberg


September 8 - October 16, 2010 


Opening reception, Wednesday, September 8, 5-8pm

Pari Nadimi Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by Chris Hanson & Hendrika Sonnenberg.

In 1968 the Soviet Union, unable to tolerate reforms, such as freedom of speech, that were being granted within its satellite state of Czechoslovakia, invaded Prague. Prague’s inhabitants had little military prowess to resist, and so one of the many inspired ideas the residents came up with was to paint over all of its street signs and destroy all municipal maps within hours of the invasion. The Soviet tanks wandered aimlessly for days.

There is a kind of doxic order to street signs that interests Chris Hanson & Hendrika Sonnenberg: the way signs stand within a city, generally unquestioned, they form a semi-conscious system by which a city’s inhabitants agree to move about without incident. But for Hanson & Sonnenberg, it is not the order that is of interest but the disorder, not the agreement but the fight. What if all the street signs were painted over? Would we wander directionless? Would chaos ensue?

For this exhibition, the artists exhibit a number of buckets and lamps constructed from discarded New York municipal street signs paired with inkjet on paper collages. Each bucket/lamp is comprised of a myriad component signs (for example, “Yield”, “One Way”, “No Parking") bolted together in a seemingly rudimentary and provisional fashion. It is as though these buckets are attempting to be useful (most sincerely- for what else is a quotidian object like a bucket to aspire to?) but fail (most blatantly: there are gaping holes in each bucket, not one would hold water). These are buckets bereft of use, made out of metal signs that no longer indicate direction and when inverted to become lamps, they illuminate. The street signs used for these sculptures have been relieved of their former purposes by the bending, sanding and painting over by the artists, to be either absurd, as a kind of doubled over futility as a bucket; or enlightening, through its inversion as a lamp.

Hanson & Sonnenberg explore this split on a formal level situated somewhere between Donald Judd’s approach to art making, criteria set forth by the Italian Futurists in the early 20th Century, and Thomas Hirschhorn’s “by any means necessary”. Smithson identified the surface and structure of Judd’s works as existing “simultaneously in a suspended condition”, while in 1912 the Futurist Umberto Boccioni insisted that sculpture portray dynamism by extending itself into space, entering its surrounding environment. “What means doing a collage? It means to put things together who are not made to be put together. This is a collage, and here it is in the third dimension.” – Thomas Hirschhorn 2006.

Chris Hanson & Hendrika Sonnenberg received their MFAs from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1993, Sonnenberg) and The University of Illinois at Chicago (1995, Hanson), both received their BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada (1987).  Hanson & Sonnenberg’s work featured in solo exhibitions at Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Canada (2010), Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York (2008), The Suburban, Chicago, Illinois (2007), Store, London, England and Cohan and Leslie, New York (2005), White Columns, New York (2000).  Their work featured in numerous group exhibitions including McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas (upcoming 2011), Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada and Kenderdine Art Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada (2010), Arena: Road Show - Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Canada (2009).  ).  Hanson & Sonnenberg’s exhibitions have been reviewed on Art Forum, Frieze, Flash Art, The New York Times (numerous reviews), The Village Voice, The Globe and Mail and Canadian Art.  

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