This is member-exclusive content
icon/ui/info filled

arts entertainmentVisual Arts

Magali Reus brings stream-of-consciousness approach to the Nasher

The London-based artist’s sculptures defy simple explanations.

I’ve recently been consuming content centered on exploration and cataloging the unknown.

Reading books and watching shows about 19th century fossil hunting along the English coast, the imagined circumstances of doomed Arctic explorers, the traces left behind by hikers who have vanished into thin air. In these uncertain times, I find comfort in stories that have lots of puzzle pieces but no finite resolution.

The sculptures of Magali Reus share a similar sensibility, as demonstrated in “A Sentence in Soil,” the artist’s solo exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Born in the Netherlands and currently based in London, Reus is an artist whose works defy simple explanations, instead serving as accumulations of the thoughts and images one might encounter during a leisurely hike through a pastoral landscape or a stroll through city streets. While they initially appear to be vaguely functional assemblages of found objects, they are carefully manufactured objects that capture the artist’s stream-of-consciousness approach to artmaking.

Magali Reus' 2020 work "Hammock" is featured in the artist's exhibition at the Nasher...
Magali Reus' 2020 work "Hammock" is featured in the artist's exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center.(Nan Coulter / Special Contributor)

Composed of four interconnected series — Clays, Bonelight Series, Beetles and Knaves — “A Sentence in Soil” is based on the concept of the fruit bowl. An art historical trope with deep roots in Dutch still-life painting, the fruit bowl is also a vessel signifying abundance and variety, a nexus of class, culture and commerce whose contents migrate with the seasons.

Although Reus’ sculptures have a solid, almost static presence, movement — in and out, packing and unpacking, consumption and digestion — plays a critical role in the exhibition.

The largest works are the Clays and the Bonelight Series. A collection of large powder-coated metal panels, the Clays resemble doors, reinforced with screwed-on bits of textured metals, ad-hoc locking mechanisms, port holes and windows. Overlaid with packaging imagery from Earthgro topsoil bags, the Clays underscore the continual manipulation of the earth by commercial agricultural enterprises, with the dirt itself acting as an unending passageway for food, waste, water and chemicals.

The Bonelight Series is the most striking of the show. Fastened to or propped up against the gallery walls, its works are filled with useful potential, resembling common marketplace folding tables and awnings that beg to be opened but will forever remain shuttered. These are the fundamental bones of the trade industry, makeshift locations that, for a brief time, are the center of goods coming and going, a manufactured moment of reconnecting with the natural world.

“We seek these experiences in nature, but then everything is filtered and sanitized,” Reus says. “We create these barriers in a way. We want a window to welcome the light in, but then we protect it with an awning.”

The Beetles, a quartet of green architectural brackets, were inspired by the Nasher’s exit signs, each resembling one of the four letters, their trailing electrical cords loosely spelling out the word “exit” in full. The Beetles demarcate the four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west within the space, but their usefulness as wayfinding devices is questionable: Where are they to be plugged in, and how are they to be used?

Magali Reus' 2020 work "Bonelight (Cascade)" is part of the exhibition's most striking...
Magali Reus' 2020 work "Bonelight (Cascade)" is part of the exhibition's most striking series. The Bonelight Series features works fastened to or propped up against the gallery walls that resemble common marketplace folding tables and awnings that beg to be opened but will forever remain shuttered. (Kevin Todora)

Likewise, a series of spindly sculptures is a mix of direction and directionless. Bent and twisted metal poles rest in bases that resemble the bottoms of patio umbrellas, the concave impressions of fruit bowls either nestled into or protruding outward. The objects are topped with windmill weights that increase the sense of precariousness. They’re signposts that seem to want to provide a sense of location but are instead useless breadcrumbs along an unknown path.

The idea of foraging and finding is furthered by the Knaves, a photographic series of mushrooms both found and bought in the Netherlands and London. Nestled within the exhibition, these speak to the soil and the cyclicality of placement and displacement. We take from the earth, and our waste returns to the earth; we move, and our waste moves with us.

Nature finds a way to use what we no longer can, locking us in an ongoing and ever-shifting relationship of survival with no certainty as to where it will go.

Details

“Magali Reus: A Sentence in Soil” runs through Oct. 9 at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., Dallas. Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $10, $7 for seniors, $5 for educators and students, and free for children under 12. For more information, call 214-242-5100 or visit nashersculpturecenter.org.

Arts & Life

Get the latest Arts & Entertainment

Catch up on North Texas' vibrant arts and culture community, delivered every Monday.

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy