Hiding in Plain Sight

Jul 14 – Aug 20, 2021
New York

This group exhibition brings together 18 international artists who use the language of Minimalism and abstraction to distill complex subjects into forms that reveal new frameworks of meaning, revelation, and resistance for the here and now.

Exhibition Details

Hiding in Plain Sight
Jul 14 – Aug 20, 2021

Online Exhibition

Hiding in Plain Sight: In Focus
Jul 14 – Aug 20, 2021


540 West 25th Street
New York

Above: Installation view, Hiding in Plain Sight, Pace Gallery, New York, Jul 14 – Aug 20, 2021 © Pace Gallery

Bringing together 18 international artists from within and beyond the gallery’s program, Hiding in Plain Sight showcases a wide range of media as well as outdoor sculpture and looks at the ways in which a wide range of artists from the early 2000s to present day use the language of minimalism and abstraction to distill complex subjects into forms that reveal new frameworks of meaning, revelation, and resistance for the here and now.

Reflecting the pervasive yet imperceptible nature of infrastructure, the exhibition explores forms of art-making that play with what is concealed and what remains visible. The shared visual language and approach to information by artists in the exhibition reveals a common engagement with the potential for minimalist forms to make connections that reach far beyond the boundaries of art.

Many of the artists included in the exhibition strip information down to its most essential structures: Trevor Paglen's seemingly minimalist cube is actually composed from materials found at early atomic bomb testing sites and from the disaster zone at Fukushima, while the palette of Kapwani Kiwanga's two-tone paintings is drawn from psychological color theory employed in institutional design. Through a method of distillation, these artists offer new ways of thinking through the conditions of life today, from legacies of colonialism and economies of extraction to the impact of new technologies and the flow of capital.

As deceptively simple as a line of engraved steel rings, the shape of a ship's hull, or a clay-covered tondo—the objects on view are formations of what remains when subjects and information are digested and transformed by artists, each of whom brings their own histories and subjectivities to the process. Inviting curiosity and slow looking, these works speak to  the  capacity of abstraction to embrace complex questions and subjects, exposing and resisting hidden power structures both past and present. These forms function as a kind of operating system: an abstract representation of how information becomes form and how form can, in turn, create information.

Artist Roundtable: Hiding in Plain Sight

Our new film documents a wide-ranging conversation between Senior Director and Curator Andria Hickey, artists Torkwase Dyson, Tony Lewis, Rayyane Tabet, and Jessica Vaughn, and Key Jo Lee, director of academic affairs and associate curator of special projects at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio.

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Etel Adnan, Désert Rose, 2019, wool tapestry, handwoven in Aubusson, France, 155 cm × 200 cm (61" × 78-3/4"), Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut / Hamburg
Etel Adnan

For Etel Adnan, a Lebanese poet, essayist, and visual artist, all art is political and shaped by lived experiences. Her paintings and tapestries use geometric forms and subtle variations of color that evoke landscapes and horizons, as well as striking geometric compositions. Adnan began to paint in the 1960s, after her decision to stop writing in French in solidarity with the Algerian War of Independence. Adnan began to make paintings each day during her time in Sausalito, California of the Mount Tampalpais outside her window. While she was widely known as a poet and writer, abstract painting allowed Adnan to explore memories of her youth in the Middle East, the atrocities of war she observed, and her nomadic life thereafter.

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Yto Barrada, Geological Time Scale (assembled group of primarily monochrome Beni Mguild, Marmoucha, and Ait Sgougou pile rugs from Western Central, Middle Atlas, Morocco), Mid-20th Century, mixed media, dimensions variable
Yto Barrada

Yto Barrada is recognized for her multidisciplinary investigations of cultural phenomena and historical narratives, with a focus on Morocco. Geological Time Scale (2015) focuses on the channels through which traditions become solidified by the conditions of colonialism. This iteration of the work references geological modes of mining and playful fort like elements with the rugs stacked on a custom-built table. Comprised of some 50 modern monochrome woven Berber rugs collected from different tribes in Morocco, the site-responsive installation references the work of a historical figure: the early 20th-century French Army general and colonial administrator, Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey. Lyautey’s impact on Moroccan history is still palpable in some aspects of the country’s culture today.

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Aria Dean, Forward Proxy 2.1, 2019, clay, resin and wood, 45" × 45" × 3" (114.3 cm × 114.3 cm × 7.6 cm), Courtesy of the artist; Greene Naftali, New York; and Château Shatto, Los Angeles / Paul Salveson
Aria Dean

Aria Dean lives and works in Los Angeles and New York and earned a BA in 2015 from Oberlin College, Ohio. This wall-mounted disc is composed of a mixture of red clay and resin. Like much of Dean’s work, it echoes the formal language of Minimalism to explore how objects and materials are receptacles for both real and projected meaning. In the artist’s words:

"I’m interested in finding some third term beyond ‘abstraction’ and ‘representation.’ When dealing with Blackness, these categories blur even if you don’t want them to—as do ‘material’ and ‘symbolism.’ I believe a minimalist framework allows the artist to condense a lot into a single object…Representational strategies lend so much specificity, there’s no room for how these things interlock more ambiently. But Minimalism allows me to speak to complex histories without having to enumerate and fix every element."

Learn More About Aria Dean

Simon Denny, Backdated NFT/ Cryptokitty Display Hardware Wallet Replica (Celestial Cyber Dimension), 2018, 2019, 2021, jpeg, Cardboard, UV print on cardboard, Non-fungible token (NFT), 3-15/16" × 2-3/8" × 2-3/4" (10 cm × 6 cm × 7 cm)
Simon Denny

Simon Denny’s Backdated NFT/ Cryptokitty Display Hardware Wallet Replica (Celestial Cyber Dimension) (2018/2019/2021) is a single work of dual nature, both a physical object and a digital non-fungible token, or NFT. Reimagining an earlier work, this sculpture responds to the emergence of the cyber and crypto worlds’ connections with Conceptual art and Duchampian gestures in a new invisible interface. Denny's first NFT featured an image of a cardboard replica of the cyber wallet in the first art house auction sale of an NFT in 2018. This new NFT and its accompanying souvenir object include an image of the same cardboard replica, this time physically stamped with an image of a previous artwork made by the artist—a postage stamp featuring an appropriation of image by artist Guile Twardowski.

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Torkwase Dyson, Scale-Scale, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 8' × 6' 4" × 2" (243.8 cm × 193 cm × 5.1 cm)
Torkwase Dyson

Torkwase Dyson’s approach to abstraction considers the measurable and spatial conditions of systems of oppression and delves into how Black bodies have occupied those spaces and self-liberated throughout history. Her work also examines geographies and architectures of oppression and liberation, such as waterways, plantations, passageways, underground tunnels. Working in painting, sculpture, installation and performance, Dyson notes that Black Compositional Thought “considers how paths, throughways, architecture, objects, and geographies are composed by black bodies and from these formations it also considers how properties of energy, space, scale, and sound interact as networks of liberation.”

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Sam Gilliam, Black Mozart/ ORNETTE, 2020, wood, aluminum, die-stain, lacquer, 96" × 96" × 2-1/4" (243.8 cm × 243.8 cm × 5.7 cm)
Sam Gilliam

Sam Gilliam is one of the great innovators in postwar American painting. He emerged from the Washington, D.C. scene in the mid 1960s with works that elaborated upon and disrupted the ethos of Color School painting. His work Black Mozart/ ORNETTE (2020) comprises concentric circles made with joined wood and aluminum panels. Three wooden discs—stained black but allowing the grain to show through—compose the outer rings and frame an aluminum ring at the center. Reminiscent of a vinyl record and titled after the American jazz musician Ornette Coleman, this work nods to Gilliam’s lifelong interest in music.

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Suki Seokyeong Kang, Mat 55 × 40 — Bolds #20-01, 2019-2020, painted steel, woven dyed Hwamunseok, thread, wood frame, brass bolts, leather scraps, 22-7/16" × 16-9/16" × 6-5/16" (57 cm × 42.1 cm × 16 cm), each overall dimensions variable
Suki Seokyeong Kang

Suki Seokyeong Kang’s research-driven practice—consisting of sculpture, painting, video, performance, and multimedia installations—investigates notions of space and perceptions of objects. Setting Kang apart is her contemporary use of traditional Korean cultural practices and craft making techniques. By focusing on singular and collective interactions with objects, her work reflects on how historical and present actions of the individual affect the future whole societies.

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Kapwani Kiwanga, Linear Painting #11: Birren White -Turquoise (U.S Coast Guard's Shore Establishments), 2021, drywall, wood paint, 250 cm × 125 cm × 3 cm (8' 2-7/16" × 49-3/16" × 1-3/16"), Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin
Kapwani Kiwanga

Kapwani Kiwanga’s series of Linear Paintings uses the language of Minimalism to explore theories of color psychology and “disciplinary architecture.” As if removed from an existing wall, these paintings rendered on domestic sheetrock reference specific colors and combinations that, beginning at the turn of the 20th -century, were used in institutional settings as part of an effort to elicit various psychological and physiological responses. Kiwanga probes the effects of psychological theories of color created by scholars like Faber Birren and Alexander Schauss who created functional colors for institutions like schools, prisons, hospitals, and mental health facilities in her extensively researched works.

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Alicja Kwade, TransForm, 2020, original tree segment, patinated bronze, oak, malachite, ceramic, granite, new silver, 32-13/16" × 17' 9-3/8" × 18-7/8" (83.3 cm × 542 cm × 47.9 cm)
Alicja Kwade

Alicja Kwade transforms materials and environs into immersive laboratories where viewers are encouraged to question their understanding of the universe that surrounds them. What defines an object in Kwade’s scenarios is based on the subjective interpretation of the viewer, including societal value, language, and function. Kwade imagines the unimaginable by illustrating her deepest existential questions revolving the nature of perception and illusions.

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Tony Lewis, ...if it does finally come to a confrontation...then we will fight the issue...not only in the Cambridge Union, but we will fight it as you were once recently called to do on beaches and on hills, on mountains and on landing grounds. And we will be convinced that just as you won the war against a particular threat to civilization, you were nevertheless waging a war in favor of and for the benefit of Germans, your own enemies, just as we are convinced that if it should ever come to that kind of a confrontation, our own determination to win the struggle will be a determination to wage a war not only for Whites but also for Negroes, 2021, graphite powder, screws, and rubber bands, dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles / New York / Tokyo
Tony Lewis

Tony Lewis lives and works in Chicago and earned an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012, a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010, and a BA from the Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania in 2008. This work, created specifically for this gallery, features a scaled version of a stenographer’s mark etched into the wall with screws, stretched rubber bands, and powdered graphite. Larger than life, this sculptural drawing further obscures an abstraction of language in material, form, and labor. Lewis uses Gregg shorthand notation, a stenographers’ tool that translates sounds into curving and bisecting lines in response to complexity of the Black American experience.

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Rodney McMillian, "shelf #1", 2016, wood, glass vases, spray paint, 44-1/4" × 40" × 16" (112.4 cm × 101.6 cm × 40.6 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles
Rodney McMillian

Rodney McMillian’s work explores complex and charged relationships between contemporary culture and the histories of politics, structural inequality, and racial violence in America.

McMillian’s Shelf series is composed of groupings of glass vases that have been spray-painted black and placed atop three white tables. In previous exhibitions, these works have been accompanied by an audio recording of a speech about racial inequality by Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress.

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Trevor Paglen, Trinity Cube, 2017, irradiated glass from Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Trinitite, 8" × 7-3/4" × 7-7/8" (20.3 cm × 19.7 cm × 20 cm)
Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen is known for investigating the invisible through the visible, with a wide-reaching approach that spans image making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. His work Trinity Cube (2017) appears to be a minimalist object made of Trinitite, a radioactive glass first produced by the 1945 Trinity nuclear bomb test in New Mexico. The inner cube is fused with irradiated glass found where Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred in 2011.

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Walid Raad, Preface to the Second Edition _ I, 2012, archival inkjet print mounted on aluminum Dibond, 59" × 78-3/4" (149.9 cm × 200 cm), image 60-1/2" × 80-1/8" × 2" (153.7 cm × 203.5 cm × 5.1 cm), frame
Walid Raad

Many of Walid Raad’s works trace a curious combination of truth and fiction alongside stories of individual experiences shaped by political, economic, and military conflict. In 2007, Raad began to examine the history of art in the “Arab world” in a series of works titled Scratching on things I could disavow (of which three photographs are included in the exhibition). The project aligned with the rapid rise of large Western-brand museums, art fairs, and cultural foundations in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Dubai, Ramallah, and Sharjah, among others.

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Adrian Villar Rojas, Untitled IV (from the series Rinascimento), 2015-2021, organic, inorganic, human and machine-made matter, dimensions tbd
Adrián Villar Rojas

Adrián Villar Rojas’s untitled sculpture from his ongoing body of work, Rinscimento (2015–21) is comprised of a dated model white fridge with a diorama-like vitrine window covering its open freezer compartment. A domestic but minimal object, the freezer is filled with an assemblage of natural and manufactured foods—frozen fruits, fish, animal bones, a beer bottle, and variant species of mushrooms such as enoki and lion’s mane. Continuing the artist’s investigation of entropy in the Anthropocene, this work meditates on the fragility of living forms and their relationship to machines. The freezer chamber and its contents are literally frozen in time, preserving objects that become more and more obscured by the enveloping freezer-bite ice over time.

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Hito Steyerl, How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 2013, HD video, single screen in architectural environment, 15 minutes, 52 seconds, Courtesy of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Esther Schipper, Berlin
Hito Steyerl

Hito Steyerl’s video installation examines how hidden infrastructures operate at both an individual level and at a global scale. Offering five lessons in invisibility, the film wryly maps the formal, symbolic, and real connections between the worlds of art, economics, and global political regimes in our era. In an interview Steyerl explains “in the case of How Not to Be Seen, it started with a real story that I was told about how rebels avoid being detected by drones. The drone sees movement and body heat. So, these people would cover themselves with a reflective plastic sheet and douse themselves with water to bring down their body temperature. The paradox, of course, is that a landscape littered with bright plastic-sheet monochromes would be plainly visible to any human eye—but invisible to the drone’s computers.”

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Rayyane Tabet, Steel Ring, 2013 - ongoing (fabricated 2021), rolled, engraved steel with km longitude, latitude and elevation marking of specific location on the TAPLine, 30-3/4" × 30-1/2" × 4" (78.1 cm × 77.5 cm × 10.2 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut / Hamburg
Rayyane Tabet

Rayyane Tabet’s Steel Rings 2021 are part of the ongoing series entitled “The Shortest Distance Between Two Points”, that investigates the often-concealed history and subjectivity of political and energy infrastructures. When complete, Tabet’s work will replicate the entire length of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline—a pipeline that transported crude oil from Saudi Arabia to the West through Jordan and Syria from 1946-1983. The installation, on view here, includes twenty-three individual rolled- steel rings representing 23 km of the TAPline’s circuitous route. Each ring is the same diameter and thickness of the oil pipeline, and engraved with the longitude, latitude, and elevation of the rings’ specific sequential location.

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Jessica Vaughn, Hope Labor, Flat and Folded, 2021, painted aluminum, 19" × 45" × 26" (48.3 cm × 114.3 cm × 66 cm), Courtesy of the artist and Martos Gallery
Jessica Vaughn

Jessica Vaughn’s Hope Labor, Flat and Folded (2021) features geometric forms that both recall and reject the language of Minimalism. The flat floor sculptures replicate a set of visual tools taken from the training manuals of the Occupational Information Network, the world’s largest resource for vocational training. The original letter-sized sheets of construction paper—scored, cut, and primed to be folded into three-dimensional shapes—are reproduced in this large-scale, mint-green powder-coated sculpture comprising aluminum panels. The shapes are designed to predict a worker’s ability to maximize productivity and can help train dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and spatial recognition.

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Fred Wilson, Dark Dawn, 2005, blown glass and plate glass, overall installed: 120" x 240" x 84" (304.8 cm x 609.6 cm x 213.4 cm)
Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson’s Dark Dawn (2005) is comprised of twenty-three parts of blown and plated black glass that personify movement and liquidity. Wilson became engaged with the glass of Murano in 2001 and began working in black glass because of the symbolism embedded in the color black. The objects in Dark Dawn (2005) amplify and magnify the form of glass as a material that begins from liquid and never fully solidifies. The “black tears” in this work respond to the history of Blackness in America with each drop and recalling tears, blood, and bodily fluids forming a slick pool of blackness on the floor.

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