During his years living in Cairo, Yousri has been always struck by what he started recently calling an "institutional aesthetic." For him, this aesthetic is characterized by forms of decay, visual randomness, and an attention to functionality that disregards the connection between subject and the expanded significance of its visual representation. This is apparent in different government buildings in Cairo, where visual clutter passes as pragmatism. It is also apparent everywhere, from crudely rendered official street signs, to public art projects commissioned by the state and political propaganda poster designs.
Since 2013, Yousri has been investigating what that "aesthetic" represents. Could it be the reflection of deeper socio-political issues? Does its significance go beyond those official institutions? Moreover, are there effects on social interaction? And are there manifestations of this ‘aesthetic’ in private and public spaces?
In Where Do We Go from Here?, Yousri explores instances that are relevant to this ongoing investigation of an "institutional aesthetic." He takes the concept out of its localized context in order to test its impact and significance within new visual registers and representational frameworks.


In the suburb, one might live and die without marring the image of an innocent world, except when some shadow of evil fell over a column in the newspaper. Thus, the suburb served as an asylum for the preservation of illusion. Here, domesticity could prosper, oblivious of the pervasive regimentation beyond. This was not merely a child-centered environment; it was based on a childish view of the world in which reality was sacrificed to the pleasure principle.
-Lewis Mumford on suburbs

I am not a Texan, and therefore, after a professional life in New York City and Boston, my transition to Texas in 2009 struck many as an odd choice. Arriving to run one of the contemporary focused museums in this museum rich-city, I quickly became enamored of the types of artists and art made in my new home.

NO ZONING, the show that opened the day I arrived, was a tribute to the unregulated city’s self-image as a place where one can do anything one wants without needing to ask either permission or forgiveness. Texas politics outside of the cities are deeply conservative, but in the cities, the vibe is that of the libertines: anything goes as long as the government is not paying for it.

Studio spaces are cheap compared to other large cities, and for that reason, creative ideas tend to find physical manifestation very quickly—any artist with ambition can make their installation dreams real, and and there is a massive audience for all the artists generated projects. (This is true in all the arts with theater, comedy, dance, poetry and film events happening nightly.)

Focusing on drawing seems a reasonable way of making a snapshot of this moment, with the established artists that show internationally sharing wall space with punk musicians and stand-up comics that incorporate drawing into their other arts. This is a tiny sliver of current practice, and focusing on drawings will be enjoyable and comprehensible without knowing the artists' larger practices.

Imagine it is your job to manufacture culturally nonsensical display objects by hand, but there is a requirement that they be ridiculously imbecilic and yet somehow intellectually enlightening at the same time. How would you get there? You would tinker with a bunch of stuff to see what might turn up, hopefully generate a number of possibilities, settle on the most likely prospect, and then develop that one thing until you had an object so utterly pathetic that it contended for actual display. Repeat. All the other ideas, since they are too good, you’d realize, must be rejected. Those too-good rejects you might then simply store in a box and forget about. Those too-good rejects you might weeks later take out of the box and, in some dangerous paroxysm of irresponsibility, display proudly on the walls of Fiendish Plots.


Baskin views the market-driven economy and cultural milieu of the 17th-century Netherlands as a sort of parallel world and precursor of our own hyperbolic investment-based economy, formulating it as an “art-historical model” through which he examines the superficiality of mass consumption. He is particularly informed by the “vanitas” paintings of artists such as Adriaen van Utrecht, which fuse an exalted materiality with a sense of anxiety and doubt by juxtaposing a cadre of sumptuous luxury items with memento mori, such as skulls and angels. 
The work in Consumption of Failure embodies a similar duality of material lust and a sort of moral hesitance; as dimensional “vanitas” images, the work contains a network of objects and their attendant associations, raising a critique of contemporary consumerism and economic insatiability through this material dialogue. In Cat, the exotic fruits, animals, and flowers favored by Flemish school painters give way to objects of our own expanded, globalized economy. Baskin's own artistic practice complements the broader themes of his work, as he uses primarily store-bought items in the assemblages, emphasizing his own role as a consumer. 

The bronze sculptures, inspired by “Tulip Mania,” the first recorded futures market bubble, provide a physical analog for the process of economic inflation and crash. Titled Euphoria, Doubt, Denial, Disillusion, and Realism, they depict the five stages economists equate to the rise and fall of an economic bubble (and incidentally the five stages of the grieving process). Cast in bronze from actual tulips, the languid arches of the sculptures form a sort of poetics of failure. Baskin delves further into his model with a series of prints of tulips embellished with gold leaf; questioning how value is defined, particularly in regard to the tulip, a rather ordinary item that came to command extreme prices, they reflect the irrational and almost metaphysical foundations of economic desire. 


Governed by a Midwest American aesthetic, Ashley Goodwin's photographs are documents and narratives of daily life. She revels in the notion that life tends to feel like a tragic joke. Where some might find disappointment or embarrassment, she sees intimate potential; fodder for a personal anecdote. Goodwin observes friends, family and self through portraits, images of lived-in spaces and owned objects. Illustrated is her ambivalence toward making specific value judgements. She approaches her subject matter with an interest in retaining experiences while walking a line between vulnerability, absurdity and bringing levity to the everyday.

These narratives are containers for content. As a working-class American she is familiar with the associated trappings — namely, a fundamental instability that permeates all aspects of life. Her aim is not to expose perceived injustices relative to her experience or to lodge visual complaints. Goodwin's photographs highlight evidence of the truth that is hidden; she  strips away how we want to be perceived by the world and reveals what actually is.


The exhibition begins with a video made in collaboration by Polak and Scott, in which both artists’ concerns are urgently palpable. Welcome to America, 2004, features footage from The Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. However, when children read the words of U.S.-American detention agents as they interrogate Muslim-Americans and immigrants from primarily Muslim countries in the wake of 9-11 the brutality of the original interaction is revealed. One side of Fiendish Plots’ gallery space features work by Polak that examines her work about immigration and detention centers. Polak uses her background in architecture and her own immigration experiences, to think about how spaces and transformed into containers for holding people captive, and, conversely, how space can also open up possibilities of escape. On the other side of the gallery, Scott untangling and distilling deeply embedded oppressive structures in U.S.-American society into potent and powerful statements about the entanglement of capitalism with racism. The exhibition ends with new work created collaboratively between the artists while in the south of France in the summer of 2017, in which the artists worked together again to think through these same issues as they have developed in Europe. 


Hawley and Fischer have conceived of The Book of Spells as a kind of ever-changing book in space; one with different chapters, recipes, footnotes, appendices, illustrations, instructions, pop-ups, histories, scribbles in the margins and more. Unlike ordinary books, The Book of Spells is not meant to be read from beginning to end, but backwards, forwards, across and through. In an age where a new kind of premium is being placed on being "rock solid," on not "flip-flopping", and on defining oneself against instead of alongside difference, why not create a space that grows, sheds, and breathes. The Book of Spells does just that, rising out of a need to interrupt the present with an alternative set of actions, guides, and incantations.

Each week, Hawley will add to and subtract from the gallery. While certain core works will always be present, minor adjustments will be made as the gallery becomes a kind of living organism. 
Throughout the month, The Afield and special guests will activate the changing space with performances in locations across the space. To be “afield” means to be “away from home, abroad; at a distance” or “outside one’s field of knowledge.” With this in mind, Hawley and Fischer’s performance collaboration, The Afield, straddles various artistic activities, combining new and original compositions for violin, voice, and electronics with video and other media. The Afield believes that “being further afield lets us be closer together. The farther we go, the more stories and voices we hear.”


Pillaging happens when we touch another person’s painting. If you are brave, you might allow someone access to your pictorial attitudes and then sit back in horror as they wield their brush with mal-intentions, slurring your ideas, coarsening your shapes, mutating your figures into dipshits, where once they were carriers of Romance and Ideology. In this annexed state, your paintings submit to bruising. Your pride is salted like a wound. It is in this place of territorial tangling that we try to have some fun and act like we don’t mind: in honor of better paintings: in honor of terseness, of fecundity, of gingerly twisted muck-ups. We don’t mind being soiled by the other, because we know “this is how it is” and “it is what it is” and “I had to.”

I've been dreaming of calendars. My friend E broke up with his girlfriend the same week that David Bowie died. He texted me "I can't believe he's gone" and didn't mention the woman. Between 1997 and 2002, I sustained an unrequited longing for E. We had sex a few times and his desultory apathy stung. He fell in love with my friend C and they slept together on K's couch in the afternoons after nights of drugs. K died in February of 2013. He was all alone in the city but still doing heroin. He died of an overdose. My mother wrote to me in 2010 that she always had dreams of her ship. Sometimes it came in. 
I wrote to G in April of 2012 about my "'l'esprit d'escalier" with him. Denis Diderot, who was born in 1713 and died in 1784 wrote, "a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs." He was 71 years old when he died. A sensitive man attending parties. Now I live up three flights of stairs. On the first floor is a bar called Lone Wolf where I dance sometimes by myself. The first time I fell into a stupor of love I was 19 years old and his name was Lonewolf. He lived with me in my apartment on 21st street for six weeks in 1994. When he left he moved to another city and read all of Proust which he said reminded him of punk. Lonewolf died before September 11, 2001. Or maybe after. His coffin was powder blue.
In 1989 Nirvana released their first album, titled Bleach. I've been painting with bleach because I like to watch the colors disappear. Watching the bleach reminds me of working in the black and white darkroom in college, back in 1995. Bleach is a corrosive agent, like rust, or iron oxide which is the red color in bricks and blood and also on Mars. David Bowie's fifth studio album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released in 1972, three years before I was born. Sun Ra and his Arkestra were exploring interstellar travel back in the 1950's when my mom was a kid. Last summer in M's basement, I reread a faded and yellowed copy of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. He used the series of Martian landings by earth people as an analogy for the violence and blindness of colonization on earth. The painters of the Stone Age placed their handprints on cave walls with iron oxide. The mark of presence is also the mark of absence. D taught me this between 2005 and today. I need help with the heavy shit. 


Fiendish Plots is pleased to present MEAN/TIME, a one-person exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist Katie Merz. Her show consists of a break down of images – or hieroglyphs – of poems by Nebraska poet Grace Bauer. One poem carries an entire gallery wall, slowing down language with imagery. Poetry already slows language; the images serve to compound that pacing or cadence. Grace Bauer will be in attendance reading her poetry.

Grace Bauer

For his exhibition at Fiendish Plots, David Kramer presented a film, drawings, and a sculpture. Kramer's silent movie, Age Old Story, is the classic tale of two good friends starting out in the in the same place and both winding up with completely different results. In Kramer’s world, luck is the key ingredient for advancement in the establishment of success in the careers of these two aspiring artists…only one of these two characters happens to be blessed with good luck.

Age Old Story was shot in black and white 8 mm film with sets and costumes put together by the artist, borrowing from the tradition of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The score was commissioned and is played by Lincoln Center’s (NYC) Silent Movie pianist Donald Sossin.

Where We Were, and How We Got There is a drawing in progress, currently 36-ft. long. It is composed of multiple vignettes culled from the artist’s vast archive of clippings of alluring images of modern technology, propaganda, and epic industrial landscapes. In it, Gipe creates a panoramic vista of undulating scenes that engage the visual rhetoric of capitalism and “Progress”.  
The drawing is projected to be as long as the Apocalypse Tapestry in Angers, France (600 ft.), an artwork that has always impressed Gipe with its scope, deep symbolism and tragic power. 


In culture hyper-saturated by electronic imagery, Linder uses the traditional materials of a quill pen and a bottle of ink to create large-scale images that persist in exploring and claiming the sub-technological process of observation and mark making. There is a vital relationship that arises between the observer and the observed on a scale of one to one. The sleight or sloppiness of hand creates an awkward and intimate surface which is compounded by the definitive and energized process of cross hatching.

Her subjects include the banality of mass produced domestic artifacts; the politics of war; sexual identity and power; and the beauty disclosed in the close scrutiny of natural and man made structures. This diversity of subject matter is a critical element in her attempt to express the complexity and variety of contemporary life.


Fiendish Plots is pleased to present Family, a two-person exhibition by artists Jenny Dubnau and Aaron Holz. Both painters focus on portraiture and have extraordinary facility, having been trained in the centuries-old traditions of Western painting, while also embracing our digital world. Family focuses on those relationships that come from an intimacy steeped in observation, close proximity and time—even if that time is abridged. Family explores the emotional and psychological core of these bonds in a pungent and direct manner. 


For Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the last of the universal scholars, the matter was clear: the number one stands for God, the creator, the number nought stands for the Devil, the destroyer. Thus the foundation was laid for the binary system, which gave us the computer some three hundred years later. In a remarkable multimedia performance, video artist Gudrun Barenbrock and composers Udo Moll and Wolfgang Mitterer trace the development of the punch card as data carrier and symbol – from Jacquard's loom via Babbage's Analytical Engine to the IBM 360's 80-character code. Also appearing in key roles are the eccentric Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, who was the world's first computer programmer, the long-unrecognized computer pioneer Konrad Zuse, as well as horses, volcanic eruptions, Frankenstein, and plan calculus.
By combining acoustic instruments with live-electronic sound processing, the music opens up the associative spaces for Gudrun Barenbrock's evocative image worlds. Not least, one of the last operational card punch machines (IBM 029) isheard live in the concert: poetical science wholly in the spirit of Ada Lovelace.