Mimes is the fourth installment of NOWORK’s ongoing study of father-son dynamics as expressed through recollection, projection, identification, loss, and play. The works in this exhibition are derived from materials made by the artists’ own fathers, and consist of a framed graphite drawing, five black and white paintings on wooden shapes, and the stacked pages of a translated text that sit on two tables in the center of the room.
In the 1980’s, Korpijaakko’s father found a discarded artist’s portfolio in a trash bin in lower Manhattan. Recognizing its value, he brought it home. Following his death in 2001, it was among his possessions that went to his son. In 2014, NOWORK began investigating the portfolio (primarily a set of silver gelatin prints of sculpture and installation documentation). They wrote a letter to ask for the artist’s permission to make work based on its contents and to offer to return the original if he wished. The artist wrote back, granting them permission; he also asked that the portfolio be returned. He told them that he wanted to share it with his adult children, both successful artists who had never been able to see work made in that period of their father’s life. In the three previous installations of the project (The Elder, 2015, JOAN, Los Angeles, Trouble Light, 2016, Metropolitan Structures, Baltimore, and A Ham Sandwich with Masonite, 2017, Magenta Plains, New York), NOWORK made work in response to the portfolio, utilizing strategies inspired by its 60s and 70s vocabulary to explore their relationship to art-making and to their own fathers, both deceased.
For Mimes, NOWORK set the portfolio aside, choosing instead to work directly with materials from their own fathers. For Korpijaakko, these are contents of three envelopes from his father’s archive; for Le Hors, they are a set of journals his father kept during the years he and his family left France to pursue an itinerant life at sea. Korpijaako’s father, a Finnish industrial designer and aspiring artist, immigrated with his family to the United States in 1975. Using sketches and source clippings found in the envelopes, Korpijaakko has attempted to finish the works without direction as to their maker’s intent. The graphite drawing Quite Quiet, 2021, is a careful copy of its original (a Xerox of a sign language alphabet manual, with the signs for E-I-Q-T-U cut out), while the black and white shaped paintings (titled One; One Becoming Two; Two; Two Becoming Three; and Three, all 2021) are based on the loose charcoal drawings cut into shapes found in the second envelope, shapes perhaps related to the Xeroxes of tornadoes in the third. As a child, Le Hors grew up on a sailboat with his mother, his father, and their dog, crossing the Atlantic multiple times from Europe to Africa to South America starting in 1984, finally landing in Florida in 1991. His father, appearing in previous iterations of the project with a black dot over his face, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2004. Le Hors’ partial translation of his father’s journals (from his native French into English) is intended as an intermediary text, allowing him to channel his father’s voice while mixing it with the inflection of his own. The text, titled toi l’interprète, 2021, is presented in the center of this installation as stacks of unbound pages, and will be collated, bound, and released following the closing of the exhibition.