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Nino Mier Gallery is thrilled to present This must be the place, Stephanie Temma Hier’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, and her debut in Brussels. The series of mixed media works including oil paintings, glazed ceramic sculptures, and found objects is on view from April 18 – May 13, 2023.

This must be the place spans the gallery on Rue Ernest Allard 25, a multi-story former townhouse replete with fireplaces, windows, and irregular architectural forms. With this venue in mind, Hier created a series of works that respond to our overdetermined psychic investments in domestic forms. Throughout the presentation, juxtapositions of dissimilar objects unsettle the viewer. In a series of twelve works resembling plates titled Banquet for Tantalus, for instance, Hier frames oil paintings of pro-wrestlers within glazed ceramic dishes featuring whole or partially eaten fish, condiments, and silverware. The erotic carnality of the painted imagery, put in conversation with the fleshiness of the adjacent fish, emphasizes the violent aspects of each. In order to eat fish, we often repress the unseemly procedure required to get the food from sea to table. This process of repression is hyperbolized—and interrupted—in the Greek myth of Tantalus, referenced in the series’ title. As punishment for attempting to serve the gods his own son for dinner, Tantalus was made to stand below a tantalizing fruit tree that remained forever out of his grasp.

Marriages of diverse mediums have long fascinated the artist, whose first solo exhibition with the gallery, Palate Cleanser, playfully worked with ceramic sculpture as a framing device for oil painting. For This must be the place, Hier experimented even more liberally with the potential encounters between each medium. In Place with a view, Hier positions a grid of rooster portraits behind delicately fabricated venetian blinds, humorously literalizing the rote comparison of a painting to a window. And in the wall relief Slaving to gain a worthless treasure, a ceramic washing machine complete with a blown glass door contains a painting of a baseball shattering glass. Throughout, the artist pushes the painterly qualities of ceramic, and the sculptural qualities of painting, to the fore.

Conceptual juxtapositions further emphasize Hier’s material juxtapositions. In Uncorrected personality traits (O-face or political face?) and Watching the whites of your eyes turn red (O-face or Award show face?), the titles’ parentheticals are literal. Within each work, Hier pulls found imagery from porn, award show acceptance speeches, and political addresses. As a viewer, it is impossible to distinguish one source from another, as Hier’s monotoned color schemes and gridded compositional structure  equalize the charged emotionality of each cropped face.

“Death is blooming” throughout the works, says Hier. Beyond la petit mort of the o-face, “Moments of violence and tension and brokenness” appear across the exhibition, “situated within an overall nostalgic, dreamlike atmosphere.” The large-scale painting Last night I had a dream, you were in it and I was in it with you depicts a man crashing through glass, falling towards the viewer. Despite the visual drama of radiating glass shards that sweeps the picture plane, the subject appears placid and unmarked by blood. Through his fall, he breaks the grid that divides the composition into disparate scenes. Present in works throughout the exhibition, the grid—the exemplary Modernist structural conceit, paragon of social atomization—ruptures in the dreamwork of this painting.

The exhibition’s titular work, a glazed ceramic dollhouse with oil paintings and miniature objects situated within its rooms, quotes a nostalgia-infused Talking Heads song in which the speaker longs for a lost home—and the security, comfort, and community that accompanies it. The dollhouse is divided into four rooms and an attic: one second-floor room features an oil painting depicting a man who, asleep in bed, has set his blankets ablaze with a forgotten, lit cigarette. Next door, a ceramic red-shoed leg protrudes from underneath a twin-sized bed, recalling the witch and coveted ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Below, tableaux of a living room and kitchen feature objects referencing other works in the exhibition, from a raw turkey to discarded rubber cleaning gloves. Poet and critic Susan Stewart understands the miniature’s attractiveness in its ability to “skew time and space relations of the everyday lifeworld,” thereby providing “an infinite time of reverie.” And for philosopher Gaston Bachelard, miniatures consolidate values, “[causing] men to dream.” The conventional dollhouse provides an outlet for fantasies of domestic peace and tranquility. But in This must be the place, Hier elicits a return of the repressed material of domestic life: its animality, its carnage, and its pain—alongside its humor and love.

Stephanie Temma Hier (B. 1992, Toronto, Canada; Lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y.) holds a BFA from Ontario College of Art and Design University. She has had solo exhibitions with Nino Mier Gallery, Los Angeles; Bradley Ertaskiran, Montreal; Gallery Vacancy, Shanghai; Franz Kaka, Toronto; Franz Kaka, Miami; Y2K Group, New York; David Dale Gallery, Glasgow; Downs and Ross, New York; NEOCHROME, New York; NEOCHROME, Turin; and Johannes Vogt Gallery, New York.