To be discovered: K.r.m. Mooney’s evasive talismans

Carlo Prada  -  January 28, 2017

Minimalism used to infuriate people. Now that we got used to it, it’s lost a bit of its kick but there are still artists out there ready to surprise us. K.r.m. Mooney (b.1990) are one of them. They live and work in Oklaoma but this apparently remote location hasn’t prevent their work to get noticed by the art world. With upcoming solo shows at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Kunstverein Braunschweig in 2017, the young artist, who have previously exhibited at The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, Hester and White Flag Projects, is definetely one to watch closer. Watch closer. Yes, because K.r.m. Mooney work doesn’t scream for attention but demands it, opening up to new level of investigation. Flora and handmade materials melt together in tiny, silent and exquisitely crafted sculptures made of silver-plated steel, spray millet, cuttlebone, steel wire, cast lavender, fluvial aquatic heater, copper, just to mention few components of the artist’s own alchemy. They stand on the floor, someone should be careful not to step on them, or cling above the eyesight, ready to be discovered. They exists in the space between sculpture, installation, poetry, assemblage and, willing or not, politics, in their anti-Trump reclusive nature.

Spatial relationship and scale are here pivotal concerns for an artist who maintains an acute awareness for the viewer’s aesthetic experience. Hester gallery director Alex Ross, representing K.r.m. Mooney alongside with Altman Siegel, says about the artist work: “they are committed to articulating difference and diversity through the undervisibilized agency of non-human actants, focusing on seeding, oxidation and the potential to induce somatic changes as the latest potentials of the agency of its constituent materials”. In terms of poetics and understatement, their work coordinate it in dialogue with Richard Tuttle or the early 1960’s creations of Robert Morris. But as correctly Ross points out “its conceptual determinations links it equally forcefully with the work of Sidsel Meinech Hansen and Pamela Rosenkranz”.

The young artist studied jewelry making and metalwork at California College of the Arts, and this bit of information proves instructive, though it also thwarts expectations. The idea of jewelry is here expressed not through conventional dazzle but through scale, potency and material preciousness. As previously mentioned, site is part of K.r.m. Mooney work. Take for example their 2015 show “Near Passerine” at Pied-à-Terre in Ottsville, Pensylvania. Far away from the white cube orthodox way of showing and communicating art, the artist choose a small shack in the countryside. “Near Passerine” is a little work thread into the threshold: a frosted glass piece holds organic materials. As noticed by Jeanne Gerrity, Head of Operations and Publications at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts “the work resides on the edge of the structure, eschewing the impulse to fill the gallery space” and she carries on saying “K.r.m. Mooney is influenced by Donna Haraway’s idea of abstraction as a tactic and the objects here are a mean of engaging with bodies in space” (Kaleidoscope, #28, pp. 56-57). But the apparent humble nature of a piece like “Near Passerine” implies further more interesting layers of analysis such as those described by Micky Meng, director of Altman Siegel, San Francisco. “Near Passerine takes its name from a land bird assemblage, or birds that have adapted to perching that one might find in a wooded area. They were lead to think through avian qualities, its relationship to body and space after arriving at the work of composer Messaien, an ornithologist who used bird song as a way to think through composition and form in pneumatic woodwind instruments”.

Meng adds that “Mooney also reference post-human thinker and feminist Mira J. Hird, in her idea that there is no pre-given identity, form or function to be found anywhere in nature, rather there is mutation, inconsistency and radical inter-connectivity that produces identities and difference we recognize in individuals and species”. Last but not least, the title “Near Passerine” also has a potential for a kind of poetic misreading: when you dissects the phrase near- implies proximity and location, pass- implies a kind of spatial or temporal movement, relating to time. This keeps within Mooney’s theme of always skirting precise definition. The sculpture’s placement, in the threshold or passageway, also gives way to indeterminacy. The work is always implying its definition, but evades static interpretation.