Mass Ornament: Pleasure, Play, and What Lies Beneath at South Etna Montauk, opens September 3, 2020

“The mass is forced to contemplate itself (mass meetings, mass demonstrations). The mass is always present to itself and often in the aesthetically seductive form of an ornament or an emotionally moving image.” — Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament (1927)

“Philosopher Siegfried Kracauer was among the first twentieth century thinkers to seriously contemplate the seductive surfaces and ornamentation of mass culture. An early theorist of cinema and one of the founders of the Frankfurt School of sociopolitical thought, he contemplated the ways popular culture and modern loci of leisurely pleasure—amusement parks, shopping arcades, dance halls, cinema, vernacular and press photographs—contain deeper revelations about the contradictions and complexities of our society. Having emigrated to the US during World War II, Kracauer focused in particular upon what he called ‘the ostentatious display of surface’ that characterized his new American surroundings, and intuited beneath the surface a host of sociological meanings in what are often dismissed as superficial forms.

Beginning September 3rd, and borrowing Kracauer’s title, the exhibition Mass Ornament: Pleasure, Play, and What Lies Beneath at South Etna Montauk takes liberties with the philosopher’s critical lens, transposing it to a twenty-first century exploration of pleasure and ornamentation, and the secrets they may conceal, in the work of a diverse group of artists and designers: Derrick Adams, Thomas Barger, Louis Fratino, Terri Friedman, Frank Haines, Varnette P. Honeywood, Ak Jansen, Nikki Maloof, Ohad Meromi, Ruby Neri, Gaetano Pesce, Rob Pruitt, Walter Robinson, Brian Rochefort, Jennifer Rochlin, Ugo Rondinone, Bruce M. Sherman, Katie Stout, and Iiu Susiraja.” — South Etna Montauk

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Derrick Adams, Floater 88, 2020. Acrylic paint, pencil, fabric on paper collage, on paper; each: 50 x 50 in (127 x 127 cm) overall: 50 x 100 in (127 x 254 cm). Courtesy the artist, Salon 94, and South Etna Montauk.

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Terri Friedman, Laughter is Carbonated Holiness, 2020. Cotton, chenille, wool, acrylic fibers; 41 x 54 in (104.1 x 137.2 cm). Courtesty the artist and South Etna Montauk.

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Varnette Honeywood, Let’s Party, 1980. Collage on board; 30 x 40 in (76.2 x 101.6 cm). Courtesy the Eric Firestone Gallery and South Etna Montauk.

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Gaetano Pesce, Pratt Chair #7 1984/2018 (Red), 2019. Polyurethane resin, Smooth-On pigment; 37 x 19 x 20 in (94 x 48.3 x 50.8 cm). Courtesy the artist, Salon 94, and South Etna Montauk.

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Brian Rochefort, Paint Can #5, 2019. Ceramic, glaze; 9 1/2 x 10 x 10 in (24.1 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm). Courtesy the artist and South Etna Montauk.

Mass Ornament: Pleasure, Play, and What Lies Beneath has been organized by curator and writer Alison M. Gingeras, who collaborated with artist Katie Stout to design the installation.