Steve Roden: ragpicker
On View September 12, 2013 - October 26, 2013
CRG Gallery is pleased to present Los Angeles-based artist Steve Roden’s first solo exhibition with the gallery in New York. While in Berlin in 2007, Roden saw an exhibition of philosopher Walter Benjamin’s notebooks, written in Benjamin’s native German. Not being a German speaker or reader, Roden was drawn to the physical appearance of the letters and Benjamin’s handwriting, and the idiosyncratic methodology of his notations. As the artist described it, “I spent a day looking at writing, instead of reading the writing.” This fascination with the notations, the indecipherable or insignificant castaways and ephemera of Benjamin’s work as opposed to the content of the words contained therein, informs the work of Roden’s show ragpicker.
Following this interaction with Benjamin’s notebooks, Roden obtained a research fellowship through Singuhr Hoergalerie and the Berlin Artists in Residence Program (DAAD), studying further archives at the Akademie Der Kunste. His focus was on the notes from Benjamin’s Arcades Project, a thirteen year examination of Parisian arcades at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. These pedestrian hubs were characterized by bustling retail, restaurant and commercial activity and were the stomping grounds of the flaneur, the leisurely connoisseur of urban Paris.
Roden’s interest shifted quickly to the manner in which Benjamin crossed out unwanted passages, while also focusing on a series of 409 short colored lines related to the Arcades text. Embodying the flaneur and his propensity for following a path without a destination in mind, Roden collected the things which Benjamin, and his subsequent enthusiasts, would describe as being “crushed underfoot”¹–forgotten, irrelevant, or unconsidered. Roden’s inability to read and comprehend Benjamin’s work allowed him to wander uninhibited through Benjamin’s work, picking out the visual manifestations of written thought.
The large paintings included in the show based are on a selection of Benjamin’s 36 methods of crossing out mistakes in his notes, organized by Roden into index cards and pulled at random to determine the structure of the subsequent work. The smaller paintings are based on a postcard from Benjamin’s childhood collection featuring the Siena Cathedral. The large works on paper, approximately the size of the artist’s body, are dictated by the color schema from the Arcades notebooks, and they also draw from French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s design schema for buildings in Chandigarh, India.
The eight channel sound work entitled cymbal/symbol uses a series of “theme symbols” from the Arcades notes as a musical score, so that each symbol determines a different sound made on a single cymbal. The installation is realized on three turntables and thus the composition is constantly changing. In this process of translation, from symbol to cymbal and from Benjamin to artist to viewer, Roden finds, in his reinterpretations of the often unexplored, fresh and surprising illuminations.
This show runs in conjunction with Steve Roden’s show Rag-picker at Susanne Vielmetter Projects: Los Angeles, running from September 14 – October 19, 2013.
Steve Roden received his BFA from Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles, CA and his MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Los Angeles, CA; the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA; the Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA; the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas; the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA; the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science, Fresno, California; the Henry Art Museum, Seattle, WA; the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara, CA, and Le Bon Acceuil, Rennes, France.
Roden has been included in group exhibitions at the Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; Mercosur Biennial Porto Alegre, Porto Alegre, Brazil; Centre George Pompidou Paris, France; San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; UCLA Hammer Museum Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; the Sculpture Center, New York, NY; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; Run Run Shaw New Media Center, Hong Kong, China, and the Kitchen, New York, NY.
His works are included in the permanent collections of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CA; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, TX; The Palm Springs Museum, Palm Springs, CA; The Pomona College Museum of Art, Pomona, CA; The ASU University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ; The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece, and Weatherspoon Museum, North Carolina.
 Benjamin, Walter, Edmund Jephcott, Howard Eiland, and Michael W. Jennings. Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings. Vol. 4, 1938-1940. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 2003. 48. Print.