If any action could singularly sum up existence in 2018, it would probably be type-shouting into the void of various social media platforms. Foucault would get woozy if he could see this incitement to discourse that defines our current dystopia as everyone with access to a computer or a smart phone screams ire into the abyss. In her current exhibition White Lies at Derek Eller Gallery, Despina Stokou’s canvases, covered in barely legible scrawl, perfectly reflect our linguistically exhausting era. 2018 isn’t the time for clean text-based painting like Christopher Wool or the most geometric of Mel Bochner. Paintings that resonate need to dive into chaos.
And Stokou’s work undeniably achieves this, making the first step into the exhibition an intimidating one as her canvases look like they wouldn’t be out of place at John Nash’s office in A Beautiful Mind. A manic mélange of lines, colors and writing, Stokou’s canvases aren’t just meaningless words, however. She sourced her text from trending hashtags like #Americain3words or responses to a tweet by Jerry Saltz encouraging men artists to step aside for the next couple years–a male feminist suggestion that was probably wedged between some weird sexually awkward medieval art. Not all Stokou’s paintings in the exhibition relate to social media. For example, the painting White Lies derives from an interview with former (fired) MoCA curator Helen Molesworth and another comes from a piece in Man Repeller featuring women over 50 speaking about sex. Now, White Lies is not just all painted pandemonium. Stokou leaves room for some blank spots on her canvases–openings that act as a release, like that sweet silence on the weekend when Trump is too busy golfing to tweet.
With all this frantic frenzy, Stokou’s exhibition is a good excuse to return to our series of GIF reviews. So “read” on: