Seeking to establish a parallel between archeology and contemporary-art practice, fast-rising British star Helen Marten presents a complex array of large wall-mounted mixed-media panels and rambling sculptural installations. In both bodies of work, incongruity and unpredictability become mediums themselves, as ideas and syntaxes are juxtaposed and stacked atop one another. Marten is a committed Maximalist for whom no agglomeration seems too eccentric. The effect is rich and strange, often unlovely but always offering plenty to dig out.
Marten cites “our vast gray milkshake of information,” suggesting that she understands the risk of her everthing-but-the-kitchen-sink approach—namely, that when everything is potentially meaningful, nothing finally is. But there are enough patterns and echoes here to allow viewers to look past the problem. Although The Cat from the Bacon, for instance, incorporates fur, rope, silk, sequins, rubber, ceramics and a dozen other ingredients, it stops short of being outlandish. Like Sarah Sze’s, Marten’s work is about the transition from one part to the next: a hectic mix of function and uselessness that makes the obscure seem suddenly clear.