Gabriel Kuri at Sadie Coles HQ, London

Alternating between floor-based sculptures and wall pieces, Gabriel Kuri evinces the complex relationships between the innate material properties of things – their sheen, softness, weight or colour – and their ‘real world’ meanings.

In a group of steel boxes, Kuri has inlaid the pure Minimalist geometry of the cube with circular niches – dually repositories and dispensers – for everyday consumables. The ‘autonomy’ of the cube is infiltrated by the reality of mass commerce. A bundle of straws converts the abstract module into a cafeteria dispensary. A slice of artificial lettuce is laid on one cube’s surface, its rippling layers mirroring the concentric funnels slotted into an adjacent hole. These items foreground the viewer’s capacity to touch, hold or consume – appearing available for use, while also retaining a sculptural autonomy and otherness. Some cubes are filled with unexpected or abstruse materials – the abstractness of the steel is here reinforced rather than undermined.

Kuri repeatedly sets up an ambivalent relationship between rational structures and inchoate, formless matter. Often, this appears as a dialectic between numerical systems (methods of quantifying, measuring and monetising everyday life) and the contingency of life in the raw. A meticulous replica of a pricing card, enlarged to the scale of a portfolio case, has been overlaid by a heap of coagulated concrete which partially blocks its numerical displays. Complicating this antithesis of sleek design and surface ‘mess’, the top of the concrete has been immaculately planed so as to mirror the top edge of the card. The dumped cement becomes, in its own way, a precise calculation. In two floor-based works, Kuri creates a similar tension: the enlarged price cards are sandwiched between a hard mass of concrete and a similar-sized rock. The utilitarian item of the pricing card (paradoxically magnified into a functionless simulacrum) is balanced and sandwiched by two different modes of abstraction, manmade and natural.

Elsewhere, the opposition between fluid abstraction and a numerical system is collapsed in a single object. Kuri has created magnified replicas of punch cards (the perforated sections of card formerly used in computer programming), surfaced in PET felt whose pastel shades are reminiscent of monochrome Colour Field paintings. Kuri has attached physical objects – themselves cyphers of information – to the felt surfaces. An oscillation between clinical literalism and abstraction is again discernible in a series of works in which Kuri has used laboratory-style steel tables and magnetic wall panels – playing on the familiarity of customs checkpoints or assembly lines – as ‘supports’ for eclectic arrangements of objects. As with the table top assemblages of Jannis Kounellis or Marcel Broodthaers, superficial familiarity is belied by an intricate dynamic of shape, colour and texture. Meaning is rendered unstable and transferrable, residing neither in the sum nor the individual parts.

Afterthought is Never Binary by Gabriel Kuri
Sadie Coles HQ, London
Through August 19