Gardar Eide Einarsson has a way of working which is both playful and disparaging. His recent show at STANDARD (OSLO) is no exception. “Discourses, Institutions, Buildings, Laws, Police Measures, Philosophical Propositions, and so on” consists of three mock-modernist paintings, an appropriated photograph, and five readymades. Four of the readymades are Japanese traffic barriers and the last one a set of pull-up bars (used for working out in prison). But painting too is appropriated as a readymade here, not for reflecting upon painting itself, but rather for the theatrics surrounding it. One could say that Einarsson treats painting as an art historical prop to reflect on how power is materialized in form within the social space. What is most interesting about Einarsson’s work is not the work itself, but rather the effects produced when individual works are played out against one another, as unsettled antagonists within the discourse of art itself. But one question remains: do these objects serve as tools for thinking critically about art?

When Einarsson appropriates fragments of material culture, be it fragments from federal prisons or Japanese traffic jams, he often pairs them with the aesthetic codes of Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, etc. While this socio-cultural montage is an interesting tactic, it nonetheless remains a questionable strategy. Maybe the painterly link, in the end, helps to create pockets of reflective attention more closely linked with high modernist aesthetics after all? There is obvious potential in how he puts forth a critique of power and space, but, in the end, its critical edge is transformed into formalism: an attraction towards the symbol or the emblem as an embodiment of the transcendent.

Moreover, the myths of modernist painting and the fetish of the readymade are wrapped up here in a masculine insistence, which appears somewhat ungenerous. The defining moment is delayed, or rather denied altogether. And while he employs the means of appropriation, the results are as neutralized as the bald critique. Inevitably, his efforts are yoked back into the claustrophobic realm of art commodities Einarsson so desperately seeks to escape.