Paul Pfeiffer: The Drives, London

The Drives is Paul Pfeiffer’s third exhibition at Thomas Dane Gallery and he brings together a large sculpture, two video installations and a series of photographs. Running 26 April until 25 May, these works form an investigation into the emotional drives that prompt human behavior and lie behind our attempts at understanding and organizing the world around us. From the seemingly perfect and ritualistic architecture of mass spectacles, to the creation of animal communities, to the deceptive secrecy of the family cell, the tensions between these two categories arise throughout Pfeiffer’s works.

Featured within the exhibition is Vitruvian Figure (2009), a large glass, wood and metal model of a quarter of an empty stadium. Representing a recurrent subject in Pfeiffer’s iconography – the stadium is part antique and part futuristic. Subtle plays of mirrors and angles create and expand the illusion of perfection. Often in the artist’s work, the most important part is what is erased or evoked.

The video installation Queen Cell (2013), derives its temporal structure from the natural gestation cycle of a queen bee cell. In the video, a honeybee larva undergoes the metamorphosis into its adult form. Shot in full HD and in real time, with a run time of seven days (168 hours), Queen Cell displays the wax cell hanging mutely as the organism within transforms, culminating in the dramatic, cruel emergence of the adult queen bee. The work displaces conventions of painting, sculpture, narrative film, and video. It deploys technologies of recording events in real time to create a composition that must be understood relative to its parts, as a sculpture, and in a state of perception, as a painting.

Another work is Drives, is Home Movie (2012) and is perhaps the most enigmatic piece in the exhibition. The gritty quality of the footage is based on an 8mm home movie from the 1970s involving two white women and four African-American children. The characters are bound together through the medium of the film into a coherent community but the stability of the social unit that is the subject of the film quickly becomes unsettled as new members of the group appear as old members disappear. A series of photographs, the piece shows ordinary landscapes and interiors devoid of people. In these images, the mundane, circumstantial details take on an uncanny poignancy, suggesting much about the persistence of memory and longing as drivers of meaning.

Paul Pfeiffer: The Drives, 26 April – 25 May, Thomas Dane Gallery, 11 Duke Street, London, SW1Y 6BN.

1. Paul Pfeiffer, Vitruvian Figure (2009) courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery.