December 7, 2008

Forming at Angels Gate Cultural Center

Macha Suzuki's Fail
Angels Gate Cultural Center
November 16 – January 11, 2009
Curated by Marshall Astor

Detail of Macha Suzuki's untitled (cat)
Angel’s Gate Cultural Center is now showing Forming, and exhibition of sculpture loosely curated around the idea that the seven artists are just as likely to get their materials from a 99-cent store, hobby shop, or Home Depot as they are from Pearl, Blick, or Utrecht. For the fact that the American consumer spending accounts for one fifth of the entire planet’s GDP—and in light of the current economic crisis—the artists’ choice of materials is quite prescient.

Michael Dee's Star (Big Green)
Downstairs, Macha Suzuki’s Halfway Home displays pinstriped ducks, repurposing materials and techniques of the failing auto industry. Ask the gallerist on duty to turn off the lights, and Suzuki’s ducks can be seen as phoenixes rising from a glowing pool of embers below. Close by, the back of a Kostabi-looking cat is transformed into a surreal lake, made from materials familiar to the model railroad club a couple of buildings over.

Detail of Michael Dee's Star (feed me, Seymour)
Upstairs, Mike Dee exhibits stars made of melted-together plastic cups. Looking like creatures that might have crawled the seabed of San Pedro bay—long before the oil-slicked trash that clogs the port choked off all but the hardiest life forms. The pinched tips of the sculpture’s tentacles resemble Audry II from a Little Shop of Horrors, but instead of her need for human blood, these assemblages announce a voracious appetite for post-consumer waste.

Detail of Eric Johnson's Huxley
In her talk at Gagosian Gallery, Rachel Whiteread expressed her interest in returning to the basics of form, color, and composition. With a similar process—but to and different end—Eric Johnson installed a long smiley arc of resin-cast vacu-formed packaging. A close inspection of the individual units stops one’s gaze at their candy-colored surface, which transforms these empty vessels into ciphers of desire.

Nancy Kyes's Red Sky
From a distance, Nancy Keys wall sculptures appear to be dust bunnies of detritus, but the bits and pieces pull the viewer in for a closer inspection. Individually, the broken and worn fragments have lost their allure. No longer having the attraction of the shiny and new, Keys creates gravity from fine wires, pulling together the flotsam into clusters of delicate waste.

McLean Fahnestock's They said you'd be a challenge (2nd Aspect)
with Conversational Documents on the wall
McLean Fahnestock's dining table-as-mezzaluna precariously rests upon black sheets of glass. In turn, granules of sugar and salt tenuously cling together in the form of dinner plates. As Newton’s second law of thermodynamics plays out before us in the tableware, a similar entropic ending is implied in the domestic setting presented before us.

Detail of McLean Fahnestock's sugar plates
Around the corner, four paperboard-and-tape sculptures silently float in a narrow gallery. The cool carved shapes give form to the parts of an iceberg that are normally hidden, below the surface of the water. Hung relatively high in the space, we are given a narwhal’s eye view of these “Missing Parts.” I’m reminded of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Wandafuru raifu,” a movie about the recently departed who are allowed to take one memory with them into the afterlife. Margaret Pezalla’s work evokes similar lost memories from materials that transcend their humble beginnings.

Detail of Margaret Pezalla's Missing Parts installation
Taken as a whole, the show exhibits a consensus of form and meaning, but it comes across as less articulate about its intent. In the septic tank of neo-liberal capitalism, is it possible to separate the shit from anything of value, or transform consumer goods—the opiate of global economy—into something that values the Shanghai factory worker as much as the WalMart shopper? Sadly, most cultural production is the consumption and regurgitation of already packaged and distributed cultural goods without the fiber of critical analysis. A case in point is the blog-o-shpere, which often takes someone else’s cultural production and redistributes it in more easily digestible bits. So don’t take my word for it; see the show.

Detail of Margaret Pezalla's Missing Parts

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  1. Thanks for writing about my show. This was a funny show to put together - it began with the realization that there were several sculptors that I just kept thinking about, and then thinking about together, and then thinking about in terms of the relationship between their material. I couldn't really wrap myself around the communication between the work until it was actually in the space and I was able to start moving it around and placing it.

  2. Thank you for the words!


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