Looking for neon inspiration? This show uses bright hues from floor to ceiling

Vienna – Slow Graffiti is populated with a rooster, a single galosh, one generic metal folding chair, an upturned umbrella, a table fan, pink Styrofoam packing peanuts spilling from their bag, a large lemon and a stuffed dog, among other eminently ordinary objects.

Items are set at lonely distances from one another in a high-ceilinged, 604-sq-m room that bristles with slender columns whose smooth surfaces complement walls carpeted in lavender velvet, giving an impression of lush flawlessness. Floor areas are a jigsaw puzzle of shallow shag carpet in fields of pastels that border deep, rusty hues: powder-blue beside burgundy, lemon-yellow and violet, diluted brick-red and an umbrous orange.

The installation features a fertile air of disconnection

The oxidized candy land is on show at Secession in Vienna, which presents contemporary art forms in solo and themed exhibitions. Slow Graffiti is the vision of 37-year-old American artist Alex Da Corte, who lives and works in Philadelphia, where he paints and constructs videos, sculptures and scenographic installations that are moody with texture and colour and freighted with the cultural and psychological associations of consumer objects, which he manipulates and decontextualizes.

Tube lighting ranged vertically along the columns calls forth a vague image of a metropolitan skyline – Da Corte means to architect the ‘skeleton of a neon city’ – but visitors are also unmistakably indoors beneath a broad factory-paned skylight.

The scenographic quality of the space is reinforced by an area with cinema-like seating, where an original short film – a shot-for-shot remake of Jørgen Leth’s The Perfect Human (1967), starring the artist masked as Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster – loops every 20 minutes.

Prefacing the press release for Slow Graffiti are lyrics (‘Let me interpret history in every line and scar’) from the 1998 Belle & Sebastian song by the same name, as well as a 1963 quote attributed to Karloff: ‘The monster turned out to be the best friend I ever had. He changed the whole course of my life.’ But there is no sense of a monster in this room, no wrinkles and little history.

The connection to the Vienna Secession – an important turn-of-the-19th-century movement that sought to produce art and design eschewing contemporary conservatism and historicism – is unclear. But perhaps that connection lies precisely in the installation’s fertile air of disconnection. What remains is form and feeling, and a tension drawn taut between duplicity and daydream.

This piece was originally featured on St-W 118. You can purchase a copy .

More from this issue

St-W 118

The Sep/Oct issue explores how hotels and restaurants are striving to be local in every aspect. From the food they offer to the plates on which it’s served; to the materials used in the spaces. Local hospitality has never been so global.

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