Writing Art History Since 2002

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After being shuttled towards the Goodman Gallery in their infamous lift (a rumbling iron box that bears more than just a passing resemblance to the witch’s oven in Hansel and Gretel. Or at least it does to me), I was very happily deposited in the well-lit and white-walled Cumulus.

Cumulus, GerhardMarx’s first exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, is an intricately composedaffair. In it Marx, who is known for his signature style of using scraps ofmaps to construct layered drawings, introduces some newer works alongside his more recognizable pieces.Walking into the exhibition gave me the strange feeling that I was revisiting old daydreams from my checkered career as Grade 9 Geographyand Biology student. The room was lined with prints of topographic trees (Marxused pages from old South African atlases to fashion flat images of ramblingweeds) and sprawled skeletons made out of dried plants twisted into paper, aswell as my personal favorite, a group of ominous clouds constructed entirelyfrom black rulers. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Cumulus is a lesson in a sort of deceptive sense of control. Marx’sworks are neatly precipitous, carefully and delicately kept, but still feel menacinglysprawling. “Most of my works,” he explain, “are incremental accumulations ofsmall things… I am interested in forms that border on formlessness – unstable,shifting, growing, permeable forms.”The first piece I saw as I came in was a ribcage made meticulously out of twigs. Despite being hollow, you can sense the spectre of lung in between the small, dry sticks: it almost feels forested with capillaries. When talking about his use of objects and materials, Marx explains that each “denies its own physicality or presence by pointing at something else, in the manner inwhich a map incessantly points at the territory, or in which remains imply alost whole.”While I was looking around, I bumped into the artist’s partner being enthusiastically ushered though the space, one imagines for the umpteenth time, by their young daughter. When I asked if I could take a picture of the two of them in front of one of the drawings, the little girl began topose in a wild series of angles, as if trying to compliment (or reinterpret?)the piece. Seeing Marx’s 18 month old thrash delightedly in front of his workssort of summed them all up nicely for me: they’re small, unusually articulatetempests, precisely and quite beautifully contained. will be at the from 22 January to 12 February.

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