Notes on Entropy

Images courtesy the artists and Arcadia Missa, photos by Tim Bowditch
Review by Molly Cranston

The term entropy describes energy that is unavailable for “useful” work, as well as more generally, the inevitable decay and breakdown of life on earth. “Notes on Entropy,” an exhibition currently on view at Arcadia Missa, challenges the doomed narratives that entropy often incites, focusing instead on the term as a constructive process that destabilizes capitalist ways of thinking, i.e. embracing things that are non-useful, even disorienting. Bringing together a group of artists who work within realms of identity, refuse and (extra)terrestrial processes, this exhibition examines the pain and implausibility of our apocalyptic cultural climate and presents new, poetic possibilities. 

Drawing on ideas of ‘anti-colonial entropy’ the works in this exhibition attempt to reimagine something different from what is already there, lamenting losses and speculating solutions. Naming disarray and breaking apart existing power structures become necessary in shaping a new future. 

Cameron Spratley, Be Ambitious With Love While Young, 2020, Acrylic, gouache, flashe, spray paint, collage, glitter, tape, colored pencil, googly eye, and china marker on canvas, 67.31 × 53.98 cm

Cameron Spratley, Pamela, 2016, Inkjet Print, Acrylic, Colored Pencil, Vinyl Decal, and Duct Tape on paper, framed, 35 × 26 ¼ inches

Three works from Cameron Spratley,  spanning 2016 to 2020, flank each edge of the space. Spratley’s work is painterly but remains underpinned by an archive of referential imagery that highlight a collective emotionality and complexity in the Black experience, and forge his own Black identity. Reorganizing images and words into an associative flurry, Spratley’s works are like self-contained songs, sampled and layered with secrets. One must bend and crane and to glean every detail. A title taken from Tupac’s upper arm tattoo, ‘Be ambitious with love while young’, follows me all the way home. 

Alina Perez, installation view

Nearby, a trio of drawings by Alina Perez consider her real memories and their speculative counterparts. In pulsating strokes, Perez narrates and reimagines her past – a father with glow-worm tricks up his sleeves, an angry horse ride and a sky ablaze with dying birds. Details emerge from charcoal smudges making the medium feel carved and three-dimensional.

In a 2016 interview, Ser Serpas states, “The area I inhabit has always been apocalypse.” In her work, Serpas relies on an archive of found objects, trash, and gifts, redistributing their psychic and historic energy into sculptural forms. Turning over ideas of property, waste and regeneration- at once elegant and spluttering- Serpas’ works exude an electric and bodily presence. 

Ser Serpas, Lickshot dramamine and my ambition flow, 2018, Mixed media, Approximate dimensions: 150 × 106 × 17 cm 

Renata Boero, Cromogramma, 1977, Natural elements, canvas, 145 × 85 cm 

Renata Boero’s Cromogramma, visibly time-weathered since its construction in the 1970s, seeks to embody the passing of time and the natural world without explicitly representing them. Boiling organic matter to create pigments, and administering them onto meticulously folded canvas, Boero has formed a practice that exists in ritual more than result. Boero’s works change over time as the pigments and organic materials decompose. Stacking her folded canvases to dry, or burying them in the ground, Boero’s slow process feels patient and capitalism-averse. 

Jesse Darling’s Virgin Variations provide a parallel to the legend of Saint Ursula, who along with 11,000 virgins, were massacred and buried in Cologne. Part girlish, part violent, Darling’s works nod to the shrine-like adornment of the locker spaces of high schoolers, as well as emanate a sense of absence and the mystery of an empty tomb. 

Installation view of Jesse Darling’s Virgin Variations 2, 9, 10, 7 & 8, 2018

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, “Universopolis” unbelievable space love, 2020, Oil on canvas and embroidery, Fully extended panels: 250 × 190 cm

Freida Toranzo Jaeger’s paintings depict scenes of space and dizzying solipsism syndrome (the feeling astronauts experience when distanced from the earth), imagining isolation and long beyond earth. In Universopolis unbelievable space love, Jaeger renders the crisp lines and cogs of space travel on hinged geometric panels that means the back side of the canvas is visible and vulnerable, with frays, staples and a cursive signature. Complicating and redefining painting with elements of sensuality and materiality, Jaeger creates a sense of dissonance, merging the real and the imagined.

In the projection room a film by Jamika Ajalon asks its subjects “How do you identify yourself?” in a home-documentary style fuzz. Ajalon renounces the reductive nature of identity categorization and exposes the variety of nuanced and conflicting perspectives that exist within Black communities. The film’s structure reflects entropic forces as Ajalon’s cuts become more frequent and cleaving, pixels and colours merge and degenerate. Music swells and a narrator burns The Isis Papers, a seminal book of essays on racism and afrocentrism that attempts to erase the experience of Black gay men as being conducive to the project of white supremacy. Ajalon creates a critical vision of disappointment and potential existing simultaneously.

Installation view of Jamika Ajalon’s Cultural Skit-zo-frenia, 1993

“Notes on Entropy” is the inaugural exhibition at Arcadia Missa’s new gallery space in Duke Street, Marylebone. The exhibition is open until December 18th.