56 Henry is delighted to present If Everything is a Hammer and a Nail, Make Lemonade, a solo exhibition by Sadie Laska on view through August 5.

Flags unfurl emotional, social, and political charge. Sadie Laska explicitly embraces this load. Though discrete works, when hung together Laska’s twelve collaged flags reveal formal and conceptual harmonies that proliferate across the artist’s practice. Anonymous profiles, talking heads, carbon-loaded jets, pointing fingers, and looping text broach class relations, political tensions, and environmental concerns. In Laska’s work, flags do not merely bear witness to moments of intimacy, grief, or joy, but serve as active participants in processing these events and experiences.

A clipping from The New Abnormal podcast hosted by Molly Jong-Fast and Andy Levy inspired the title of the exhibition, If Everything is a Hammer and a Nail, Make Lemonade. In nonsensically chopping and combining two adages, Laska satirizes the absurd practice of applying cliches as bandaids for worldly wounds; omnipresent tropes now ooze more toxic positivity than wisdom.

Laska collects, fractures, and unites lyrics, proverbs, images, and symbols through collage. She employs the flag format, which conventionally stands for enduring allegiance, and endows it with contemporary and evolving events such as the Coronavirus pandemic and climate change. In this way, Laska attends to both the material presence of the flag and the immateriality of its suggestive symbolism.

Titular phrases sourced from literature, music, and philosophy stitch the exhibition together. Untitled (Truth), for example, reads “if truth is the daughter of time make lemonade.” Laska again adapts an aphorism - in this case one that sardonically underscores the inevitability of truth rising to the surface - and lends it an auspicious ending. Lyrics from the Dead Kennedys' Kill the Poor dancingly juxtapose a delicate floral print in Untitled (Kill), and in Untitled (EEK!), the exclamation accompanies a foreboding composition of a plane heading towards a body in free fall.

If Everything is a Hammer and a Nail, Make Lemonade’s installation visually parallels the effect of sports team banners paneling a gymnasium. Positioned against the wall rather than freestanding, the flags wallpaper the space, creating an architectural and environmental installation, which simultaneously acknowledges and assuages anxieties about our world.

Sadie Laska (b. 1974) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BFA from West Virginia University and her MFA from Bard College. Laska is represented by Canada in New York and Ceysson & Bénétière in Europe. This is the artist’s second exhibition with 56 Henry.

105 Henry Street, New York

Wednesday to Saturday 12pm–6pm