15 September–19 October, 2023
Conceptual Fine Arts, Milan

Opening Reception:
Thursday, 14 September, 6.30–9.30pm

In Collapse, Soft Opening presents a group of four new works from Nevine Mahmoud and Maren Karlson.

Mahmoud’s stone fawns contort in twisted positions of vulnerability, writhing around somewhere between pleasure and pain. Exposing a familiar symbol of childhood and innocence, these creatures appear naked and incomplete, with the artist’s choice of cold, hard material leaving the cervine infants immortalized in states of enraptured rigor mortis. In these works, Mahmoud beautifies distress as she interrogates the relationship between vulnerability and surrender to consider the sensual ecstasy found in agony. Seemingly assembled mechanically from isolated marble components, these uncanny parts make up a mechanized whole. In one work, a smoothly carved pink torso leads to machine-milled ears that remain pricked, indicating a conscious, sentient awareness and a desire to hear, to listen, to communicate. Concurrently, this soft, hollow interiority continues in Karlson’s paintings, their sinewy cavities pulsating in a state of constant kinesis.

For these paintings, Karlson used reference images of decaying objects and city trash found on walks both in Los Angeles and in Germany as well as footage from a 1988 film illegally made by East German environmental activists documenting toxic waste dumping. Layering these with images from recent personal encounters with machines that scan and map the body (including x-rays, ultrasound imagery and endoscopic footage) allows fragments of each to blend together to distort perspective and deteriorate logic. This visual language allows Karlson to speculate on a body not defined by its physical or psychological boundaries, but that instead dissolves into its context. Instead of existing in opposition to and separate from its surroundings, this speculative, imagined body permeates what surrounds it to the point of total disassembly and dispersion.

Using this logic, like Mahmoud, Karlson’s work is concerned with envisioning an understanding of life beyond opposition: humanity as part of nature rather than in opposition to it, death as part of life and so on. Thinking beyond the ingrained dualities we are conditioned to rely upon for an innate sense of stability and security disintegrate as these artists ask us to reconsider binaries of living and dying; natural and unnatural; organic and inorganic; material and immaterial; real and simulated; inside and outside; object and subject; self and other; creator and creation; god and man. In this exhibition, both artists collapse systemic boundaries to result in a surrender of a/the body - or of a/the self - to curiosity and to chaos.

Maren Karlson (b. 1988, Rostock, Germany) lives and works in Los Angeles, where she is currently completing an MFA in Painting At UCLA. Past solo and two-person exhibitions include: Lacker at in lieu, Los Angeles (2023) with Sophie Friedman-Pappas; Cypher at Soft Opening, London (2022); Nodulara at Ashley, Berlin (2021); Counsel at Springsteen, Baltimore (2021) with Kira Scerbin; Petal’s Path at in lieu, Los Angeles (2020); Rats dream about the places they want to explore at 427 gallery, Riga (2019); Hear the lizards listening at Mélange Gallery, Cologne (2019) with Claude Eigan and Happy Dark at Interstate Projects, New York (2017). Selected group exhibitions include Support Structures at Gathering, London (2023); Body without Organs at Chapter NY, New York (2023); On Failure at Soft Opening, London (2023); SPECIES at Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich (2023); Durian on the Skin at François Ghebaly, Los Angeles (2022); Drawing in the Continuous Present, curated by Rosario Guiraldes at The Drawing Center, New York (2022); Claro del bosque, at Intersticio, Madrid (2021); HU at Real Pain, Los Angeles (2020); Perhaps A Window? at stadium, Berlin (2020) and Introducing at in lieu, Los Angeles (2020).

Nevine Mahmoud (b. 1988, London) lives and works in Los Angeles. Past solo exhibitions include in mass and feeling at Soft Opening, London (2022); MATRIX 188 at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut (2022); the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles (2021); foreplay II at M+B, Los Angeles (2021); bella donna at Nina Johnson, Miami (2019); belly room at Soft Opening, London (2019); f o r e p l a y at M+B, Los Angeles (2017) and The Poet, The Critic and The Missing at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016). Selected group exhibitions include perfectly round, as we left them at the Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro in Milan (2021); Romancing the Mirror at MOCA Jacksonville, Florida (2020); Holly Coulis, Nevine Mahmoud & Christina Ramberg at Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong (2019); The Artist is Present, curated by Maurizio Cattelan, at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai (2018); Dreamers Awake: Women Artists After Surrealism at White Cube, London (2017); MADEMOISELLE at the Centre Régional D’art Contemporain Occitanie in Sète (2018); This is Presence at Ballroom Marfa (2016) and The Lasting Concept at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (2018).