May 232024

Rob Davis’s paintings for The Golden, his solo exhibition at Broadway Gallery, challenge the viewer to look beyond these quiet moments to what lies beneath the surface.

From the press release-

These modestly scaled oil on linen works take depopulated 1970s and 80s domestic interiors and culturally-charged objects as their subject.  While initially apprehended as a mode of photorealism, prolonged viewing reveals a gauzier, mediated affect that hints at a more considered approach. Painting from photographs (with an intermediary study in watercolor) Davis evokes a peculiar vestige of the source image rather than a mere virtuosic reproduction. In doing so, he homes in on the slippery complexities of individual and shared memory.

The beckoning interior of a pick-up truck, a shark-skinned Cadillac Eldorado (that gives the show its title), a wall-mounted telephone on faux-wood paneling, and a backyard tire swing all conjure a certain vintage of American middle-class signifiers, but with a suggestive twist. These images harbor an extraordinary potential energy that something is about to happen—and gets at an unsettling underbelly of the era and nullifies nostalgia. The tire swing, for example, traces an arc between innocent play and the specter of something more malignant, acknowledging a diffuse dust of unease that has settled on everything.

Elsewhere, Davis engages some curious strategies around reproduction. With Quilt 1-3 and Window 1 and 2 (all works 2024) the artist repeats views of a suburban bedroom in multiple iterations identical in size and only subtly varied in appearance. This has the peculiar effect of calling to mind both the ready reproducibility of the source image and the tremendous effort undertaken to render it by hand. Seriality generally favors the immediacy of the photograph, but for Davis all reminiscence is muscle memory and these paintings carry the imprint of his labor as a potent lever for narrative and remembrance.

This exhibition closes 5/25/24.

May 182024

“Equulus Duo (Two Horseys)”, 1993, Resin, steel, toy horses

“Noven Beastiolae et Octo Massae (Nine Animals and Eight Blocks)”, 1994/99 Resin, stuffed animals, steel, wood, paint

“Sub-Tristis (Somewhat Sad)”, steel, paper towel roll, resin, bees wax, dead fly, 1989

“Notae Litterarum (Foreign Trade)”, 2003, Book, glue, steel

Lucy Puls’s sculptures for Here Everywhere at Nicelle Beauchene encourage the viewer to think about objects in a new way, while also seeing them in the context of their own history. The thrift store toys in her resin sculptures are reminiscent of specimens in a jar or bugs in amber. A roll of paper towels, coated in resin and bees wax, also has a fly on it as if, like the people preserved at Pompeii, an event caused it to be trapped in this moment.  Casts of ships that no longer sail, and books detailing things no longer important, are made and remade into new forms with new codes to decipher. Consumerism, technology, even language itself (her titles are in Latin and English), evolve and change.  What will remain of the present day as we move into the future? Are there clues in what Puls has made using remnants of the past?

From the press release-

Showcasing selected works from 1989 to 2003, Here Everywhere highlights Puls’ unique and overlooked approach to materials and form, surveying her early experiments in making sculpture with found objects, wax, and resin.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Puls turned to making small, resin-cast sculpture with personal effects, found objects, and outmoded household items. At the time, Puls had been making large-scale fiberglass and corrugated metal sculpture; as a reprieve from this labor-intensive work, she began to experiment with leftover waxes and resins on more intimately sized works using items that were on hand in the studio or discovered during thrift shop runs.

Here Everywhere presents selected artworks made across almost fifteen years, loosely arranged into three categories that broadly describe their materials: Small Things, In Resin, and Of Book.

Comprising Small Things is an example of one of Puls’ very first experiments in wax from 1989, Dicis Causa (For the Sake of Appearances). Puls coated a fur hat in a mixture of wax and resin, tipping the form on its edge and affixing insects to its interior surface. Once a status symbol, here the fur hat transforms from a useable object to relic, recognizable, yet made distant through the artist’s material interventions and presentation on a steel shelf.

Works from In Resin include heavily sanded, amberized sculptures arranged throughout the gallery at varying heights atop artist-made shelves and pedestals. Assembled in this series are objects that made their way into thrift stores en masse throughout the 1990s, including once sought-after goods such as the Macintosh 512K and My Little Pony toys. Puls primarily acquired items that had been marked down at resale stores, thus seeking to understand the ways our consumer tendencies pave the way for trend cycles and widespread obsolescence. Children’s toys, in particular, mark this system for the artist; Res Parvus (Little Things) (1991) and Pueri Arma (Child’s Gun) (1991) reveal assembled compositions of the consumer objects that denote childhood—from the innocence and ubiquity of small, plastic figurines to the targeted marketing of BB guns to young boys.

Made a decade later, Imperfectus (Encyclopedia Britannica) (2002) and Involvo (Websters Twentieth Century, Red) (2002) from the series Of Book were created in a time-intensive process of gluing and layering. Unbinding and re-articulating the ideologic form of the encyclopedia, Puls meticulously transformed thousands of loose pages into solid, illegible objects.

The goal across all three series, Puls says, was to achieve in sculpture that which is done with relative ease in painting and drawing: to reduce “representation” to its simplest means while physically separating the object, or artwork, from real-time reality. This is to suggest the idea of a physical object that is both there and not there, devoid of any use-value yet rife with manifold meanings and associations. Through a “strangely alluring sense of loss,” as Glen Helfand described of the work in 2005, Puls turns Dada and Minimalist principles inside out, asking us to more deeply consider the influence of everyday objects and the way they reflect essential ideas of who we are.

This exhibition closes 5/18/24.

Mar 162024

David Kruk’s solo exhibition Nobody Here at Summit Artspace in Akron, asks questions about the state of culture (or lack of culture) we are currently experiencing. Is the difference between the Venus of Willendorf and a Funko Pop just time period and material? Using the Vaporwave aesthetic, a remix of past pop culture in itself, he explores consumerism and nostalgia. Walking around the empty spaces in his video game creation, one is left wondering- what comes next?

The artist’s statement about the work-

This exhibition will consider Mark Fisher’s concept of “lost futures” through the aesthetics of Vaporwave and Funko Pops. I am interested in how these anachronistic objects utilize nostalgia through the remixing of cultural references to engage with consumer capitalism. According to Fisher, this continual referencing of the past exemplifies contemporary society’s cultural stagnation and the erosion of collective imagination towards a radically transformative future.

The sculptures in the exhibition are intended to push these anachronisms a bit further; to undergo a life cycle of adaptation and re-contextualization. I enjoy thinking about the ways in which something like Vaporwave can function as a critique of consumer culture, questioning capitalism’s impulse to commodify everything in sight, including our identities and memories. Vaporwave was born from the internet, and its aesthetic continues to be quite popular within online communities. These communities may often be collectors of pop culture paraphernalia: such as Funko Pops, which I’ve become interested in for their cultural symbolic value. Collecting Funko Pops can provide a source of aesthetic stability for some, while simultaneously operating as totems for coping with the realities of adulthood.

Conceptually within this exhibition, I wonder about the ideological trajectory from ritualistic idol to mass-produced fandom figurine, how capitalism influences our engagement with nostalgia, how the concept of a collectible operates within the spheres of the household to the museum, and how an art object may change over time through being digested through the body of consumerism.

For the video below, available on the gallery’s website, Kruk discusses his work – from tracing images using an oven light as a child, to a growing interest in sculpture, to creating the interactive video game from the show.

This exhibition closes 3/16/24.

Feb 292024

The National Museum is a public art project founded and curated by Jon Rubin and presented by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Different artists are invited to change the name of the museum and an essay is written using the title as a jumping off point. The first iteration is by artist and writer Pablo Helguera.

About the project from Jon Rubin’s website

The National Museum repeatedly asks which stories, histories and futures are deemed worth saving and which are ignored or forgotten. Each month, a different artist is invited to change the name of the museum and a national writer is invited to use that museum title as the jumping off point for an essay. In its first year, the project currently consists of storefront signage, street posters, printed broadsheets, a website and monthly accompanying essays.

When a name starts with “The National Museum” it triggers contentious and political associations with borders, nationhood, even citizenship and belonging. Who gets to determine the belonging of an entire group of people bound only by the fact of their geographical location. There’s something absurd about that, if you think about it. Instead of claiming ownership over a diverse populous or even a disparate set of objects, can the notion of the “national” be rethought as something that is less tangible, less object-oriented?

There is a fundamental hubris and absurdity in calling something, anything, a museum, let alone The National Museum. But, in many ways, it’s really no different than any other museum that someone, usually with far more money, privilege, and power than any of my artist peers or myself, has simply made up. So, in a way, the project functions as a kind of loophole or work-around, a participatory fiction that allows a variety of artists to put forth an ongoing series of grand propositions, a theoretical institution that repeatedly brings into question the certainty and reality of our pre-existing institutions.

The National Museum elucidates how museums, especially national ones, are perhaps no different than the nation-states in which they reside. Each is an imagined political construct, a collective fiction used to collect, categorize, narrativize, and control. Throughout modern history museums have used the collections they steward and the stories they tell to validate extractive legacies of colonialism. And, although our current museums, both national and private, are staffed by people with experience in the arts and humanities, the ultimate decision-makers in many of these institutions are wealthy donors and trustees who derive financial benefits from, and exert ideological control over, the fundamental mission of museums. So, while the general public think museums are nominally for “everyone,” the truth is that they are delimited by economic, geographic, racial, and cultural boundaries that restrict their function, design, and access to select publics.

Pablo Helguera’s essay on building façades as art and metaphor, Creditable Unrealities, is included on the broadsheet for the project (as well as his Substack Beautiful Eccentrics) and is a highly enjoyable read.

It includes this passage on how he came up with his name for the museum-

“Ultimately, I reasoned that façades are  the most direct indicator of the time when they were built:  they are the things that we try to use as visual reference to identify a city we know in a historic photograph; they are time markers. And when it comes to museums, they traditionally seek to project timelessness, especially those august institutions whose neoclassic façades promise a container of art for the ages. So I thought that this façade should be the threshold not of art history but of our own awareness of that history and our minuscule place in it, knowing that the present that we are living so vividly will soon wash away, largely unimportant within the broader scope of human life. In 2001, doing research on people who consumed ecstasy, I was struck by the effect that their drug had in some people’s temporal awareness, and how it resonated with my own  (drug-free) experiences. Thus the phrase “I have nostalgia for the moment I am living”, which gave the inaugural title to the National Museum.”

The next iteration of the museum will feature Edgar Heap of Birds (Hock E Aye Vi). The broadside will be written by poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate Suzan Shown Harjo.

Feb 142024

Esterio Segura’s Goodbye My Love, 2013, three sculptures created with fiberglass and automobile paint, are currently on view at Tampa Museum of Art.

From the museum about the work-

A new acquisition to the Museum’s permanent collection, Goodbye My Love represents Esterio Segura’s (Cuban, b. 1970) ongoing exploration of the meaning of airplanes and flight. Produced in multiple editions at different scales, this version is nearly the largest. In describing the series, Segura explained,  “In this work, the reference to the airplane hybridizes with a reference to another well-known universal symbol: a simplified image of the heart. This is fused with an easily understood title with several meanings, from the most corny and sentimental to the most controversial, from a political and social standpoint. With this work, I reference the experience of uprooting, nostalgia, memory, loss—how we experience the breakdown of everything we love.”

He discusses the work in the video below in a bit more detail.