At center, Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht’s sculptures and books (all photos by author)

Dunkle Wolke is a show at Storefront Gallery in Bushwick curated by William Powhida, our favorite art world curmudgeon. The title translates to “dark cloud,” a perfect match for the small exhibition’s mood, a mixture of bookish depression, modernist angst and goth vibes.

The exhibition features artists who “have some experience with darkness in all its forms, from the purely formal to the emotional weight of loneliness,” according to Powhida’s exhibition text. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of black going around Storefront’s space. But literal darkness is not the only quality that these artists share; they all make laconic work that seems hesitant to move out of its own funk, to stop hiding in books and history or to escape the weight of the past.

Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht‘s sculptures are the first things to catch the eye, a trio of architectonic wooden stands sprouting in the middle of the space, de stijl compositions that float effortlessly. Each stand is topped by a single book set into a notch in the wood, standing straight up. The books are, like the rest of Dunkle Wolke, heavy reading: German critical theory, the architecture of Gropius. Mounted on the wall behind the sculptures are black architect monographs, splayed so that their bindings face outward like gutted animals. They books are cut into slices and reassembled so their covers become angular, darting silhouettes. Both books and sculptures are elegant physical and critical puzzles, referencing as they do both art and the deconstruction of art by academia.

At right,David McBride’s paintings

Ellie Ga‘s photographs might be the darkest objects in the show. The photos document the artist’s 5 month trip into the arctic following a group of National Science Foundation scientists; they depict crags and canyons in the ice, starkly lit by helmet-mounted floodlights. The rest of the landscape remains dark, a physical and mental darkness. David McBride‘s glossy paintings are tiny pits, abstracted images of caves illuminated by hallucinatory purples, white splotches and off-set red and blue highlights suggesting the afterimages created by the eyes after staring into a bright light and back into darkness.

Dunkle Wolke to me is the nightmare of being unable to process the fact that the world contains an infinity of objects, all seen and thought over, all created and uncreated constantly. These works gaze upon the excess of pre-made stuff, failed theories and old art and shy away, preferring instead to shudder between joining the cacophony and making as little as possible, silently dreaming.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...