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Your Presence Is a Present
April 6 – May 26, 2024
→ Hessel Museum of Art
Curated by
  • Daré Dada
Part of
Exhibition Category
Thesis Exhibitions, Student Curated Projects

Artists: Olu Ogunnaike and Constantin Thun

Your Presence Is a Present is a two-person exhibition featuring Olu Ogunnaike and Constantin Thun. Your Presence Is a Present highlights the striking affinities between the ways the two artists inquire into instruments to echo their own sentiments. The sculptures and installations on view oscillate between open-ended meanings and closed categories, passivity and activity, provoking new interpretations of cultural forms.

Ogunnaike works between sculpture, printmaking, performance, and installation, using wood and the products made from them to instigate possible encounters between past and present, between people and the spaces they inhabit. For this exhibition, Ogunnaike has been working closely with charcoal dust on mirrored steel, experimenting with the last material state in which wood can exist. Charcoal imbues fragility, while also serving as a fleeting entity. Pondering into the mirrored steel surface is a reflective exercise. It can serve as a medium for the introspection of the social scenes depicted while also existing as a frame that holds space for these past moments. With the viewer’s gaze, this absence becomes vivacious, impregnated with visions of the self existing in a collection of moments witnessed.

In Thun’s work, one thing can become another. In focusing on this transitional state of in-betweenness, he engages with language as a tool that may prevent an object from closing in on itself. However, language can also have an austerity to its presence and being, too. What becomes apparent is that the recoding of language is being used against the grain of its own laws to hold open and closed a promise of attitudes. For example, in Thun’s previous exhibition Cabin (2020), installed skirting boards—which in situ carry out their function to frame a room—were enlarged. A large open-top wooden structure that can exist as an aggregate of forms can be taken at face value. However, it also might remind one of a confessional; it might function as a frame hosting other objects; or it might be something else entirely.

In Your Presence Is a Present, Ogunnaike’s charcoal on mirrored steel is determined by traces of dust. These left-behind gestures offer impressions of the work’s nature—hinting at its inception, its occupation, and even the site from which it was uprooted, but also its new occupation and the site into which it has now been pronounced. Meanwhile, Thun introduces two entities: the first, a vitrine filled with his belongings; the second, a wooden wishing well from the Hudson region. Both perform as frames, holding space for potentiality within their volumes, where objects may be one thing or another and wishes spoken into the well may become a reflection of this too.