August 19, 2008

Sayre Gomez at Sandroni Rey

Sayre Gomez' Blizzard, 2008
Standing in a gallery and looking at art on the walls, I can't help but think of the diagram of a cross-section of an eye, with ambient light reflecting off an object and inverting through the iris. In many ways a framed work of art operates in a similar way, with many lines of thought connecting through the glassed frame, back to the art historical, conceptual issues, commodity function, and the like.

Looking at Formal Exercise--Sayre's work at Sandroni Rey--I can't help but make a connection back to Picasso's use of chair caning in collage (glued down a hundred years ago) to the amalgamation of everyday detritus so common in contemporary art practice (I'm thinking of folks like Mike Kelley and Isa Genzken). Such historical connections mark the inevitable trudge of modernism--at least as it's told by the traditional stalwarts like Janson, Gardner, and Hartt.

Likewise, there's the artist's personal progression, from coloring books--to craft projects--to one's first formal exercises in 2- and 3-D design. Sayre charts this continuum in his collages, with tidbits taken from how-to manuals of grade-school craft projects. Formally the work exhibits the grammar of composition taught in higher academic settings. Taken together, the work can be seen as an illustration of the process of art education--one that eventually leads to an exhibition in Culver City's gallery district.

In some ways this can be seen as the most conventional model of artistic education--what Lane Relyea has referred to as the "Bauhaus model".

Sayre Gomez'
Formal Exercise: Make and Do/ Art from Many Hands/ Craft and Hobby, 2008
But there's another convention for training artists, familiar to both Lane and Sayre. What might be termed a "critical theory" model, popularized at CalArts. In this type of post-studio educational practice, classroom discussion may touch on craft and composition, but more time is paid to the work's function as a commodity, it's relationship to the institutions where it's displayed, and the political climate in which it lives. In this model, art schools can be seen as factories that churn out workers who in turn make objects for a particular class of individuals. This model is not explicit in Sayre's work, but it becomes implied in his depiction of the process of artistic indoctrination: the learning of skills and use of materials though play.

Installation Shot at Sandroni Rey
Besides an artist's personal interests, the work's audience must also be considered. At school it becomes one's peers and faculty; later it transitions to collectors and critics. Art school is a time for artistic experimentation, unfettered by concerns of the art market. With Valencia in his rear-view mirror, Sayre seems to be digging deeper into his artistic past, from SAIC to scissors and glue.

In Blizzard, a Baldessariesque block of color obfuscates a child's hands at play. Layered in the work one can read allusions to the conceptual and formal, to materials and creativity--the building blocks of art education. Formal Exercises can be seen as an attempt to show that you can't go home again, and that actually might be a good thing.

Sayre Gomez in a Still from Neil Beloufa's Yet-to-be-Released 2008 Video

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