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Karl Haendel “Organic Bedfellow, Feral Othello”
October 22 – December 5, 2015
Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Karl Haendel describes his own practice as “honest work about contradiction and hypocrisy.” The meticulous photo-based drawings he creates are certainly honest, everything else combines pretense and conceptual plotting that suggests that Haendel has a command on visual culture and enjoys playing with it.

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There is something immediately striking, both visually and intellectually, about the entire installation. The gallery space is completely transformed, animated by figures in yoga poses and apes atop various geometric forms.  The powerful structural relationship of black and white design re-frames the gallery and stimulates the senses like the staging of a high-end boutique. Hand-drawn QR codes on display blocks furthers the idea of consumer space while other drawings reference self-bondage.  Everything is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, adding to the emotional uncertainty of quiet agitation.

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The title itself is paradoxical, “Organic Bedfellow, Feral Othello.”  Othello was not free but held captive by the immorality of others. Imprisoned by sexual jealousy, Othello’s self-deception leads to murder and suicide, the hideous crime of passion play.  The insertion of the “Organic Bedfellow,” our biological predecessor, ape, whose primal nature comically collides with this artificial space is pure monkey business.

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Haendel is not talking about Nietzschean evolution of ape-to-man-to-superhuman but rather devolution of opposing forces of nature and culture. It is culture that prevents Othello from true love. Today, true understanding of our selves is difficult because we are so consumed.  Haendel makes us beautifully aware of the trappings of consumer culture; contrived spaces, unnatural and filled with void.

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“What could be a better foil in understanding human evolution than everyday moments of devolution, which have remained a part of our species for thousands of years: getting cold, quenching thirst, being out of breathe. Black and white may be defined in opposition to each other but this is also what makes them inextricably linked. Our evolution is our devolution. Our devolution is our evolution. When we recycle, somewhere deep down inside we acknowledge the hypothetical end of Earth for our species, and when we couple, somewhere deep down inside we resist it.”— Karl Haendel