This piece appeared on artforum.com:
The outcome of a reconnaissance-cum-research trip to Liverpool and Manchester earlier this year, this exhibition takes its somewhat macabre title, “Hangmen of England,” from a scholarly volume Moyra Davey discovered while taking photographs at the Liverpool Central Library. Focused on small-scale photographic works, which are pinned to the walls and showcased in two antique walnut-framed vitrines (the only adornment in an otherwise bare room), this beautifully spare solo show styles itself as an archival display.
The exhibition’s centerpiece is a new iteration of the artist’s ongoing “Copperhead” series; here, the work is in the form of gridded mailers consisting of one hundred photographs of Abraham Lincoln’s barely distinguishable likeness on patina-coated and variously degraded US pennies that the artist has collected over the years as illustrations of the entropy of value. Like the pennies themselves, the chromogenic prints show signs of wear and tear. Each print has been folded, sealed with bright orange, pink, and green adhesive labels, addressed by hand, stamped, and mailed in batches from New York to Tate Liverpool. Unlike some of their predecessors, none went missing on this particular occasion.
The handling of used objects, namely LPs at record fairs, is the theme of Kevin Ayers, 2013, named after the English singer-songwriter associated with psychedelic 1960s bands like Soft Machine. Davey happened to read Ayers’s obituary on her plane journey to Liverpool, and, on her return flight to New York, came across a piece coauthored by Valerie Plame, who lends her name to another artwork on view that obliquely alludes to her “public hanging.” The titles testify to Davey’s abiding interest in the part chance plays in the creative process. Drawing on American and British references alike, the show as a whole exemplifies a transatlantic traffic of ideas, matching that of the works themselves on their journey from the artist’s studio to their destination.