If you’re intent on driving an automobile into the maelstrom now known as First Fridays you realize that, in certain situations, size does matter. Perhaps it’s only fair that an event intended to reduce viewer stress should first induce some. Art-goers with unsettled responses to pressure might detour the evening’s festivities, order a double, and henceforth lead a life of indignation and regret. Yet, life is often more rewarding at the edges and worldly patrons would be better served by climbing a ladder. Not the corporate one that feeds them but rather one adjacent to the reflecting telescope that has become a monthly crossroad’s mainstay. Ascend the steps and peer longingly into the face of a super moon1. This act might not change reality but it could potentially increase one’s imagination by 17 percent, a handy advantage when viewing two recent sculptural installations at Studio Inc and Subterrean Gallery.
Sculpture, at its essence, is about transformation of space into content. There are tricks to be had at facile hands of those who choose to wield ideas. Smoke and Mirrors could be the title of Peter Warren’s exhibit at Studio Inc. But it is not. Rather his title, Se opp for Rotemannenrefers to a Norwegian newspaper headline. Translated: “Watch out for Messyman“. Obtuseness can be a recipe for disaster. But here, contrary to pedestrian views, Warren defines a zigzag as the shortest distance between two points. At other times, he illustrates with equanimity that same distance can be spanned by two ninety-degree angles set squarely to disrupt polite dinner table conversation. Although Messyman could be the theater of personal home invasion, there is nothing, contrary to Warren’s intent, messy about the work. His pieces are methodical and calculated, yet they are not rote. His work is charged with intent and hidden meanings as if a thief has turned artist and his furtive criminal intent has now taken on poetic license. In this world, one expects the criminal artist to return in act two as chief investigator and facilitate a dialogue in how best to understand why he (artist né criminal) chanced to violate your inner sanctum while you walked the dog. Thank him though. Warren did, at least, return your key under the doormat so that you may—once the initial shock has worn off—re-inhabit your mind.
If one imagines Warren apologetic, Amanda Martinez, whose show at Subterrrean Gallery is in fact titled, Smoke and Mirrors, remains firmly unabashed in her use of foam core insulation as a material in which to draw form. Had she chosen to extrude softer plastic, rather than cut, scrape, and meld a material that rigidly surrounds our homes into a new understanding of sculpture, one might more easily walk away from it’s solemnity. That she did not is testament to the insulating properties of a focused distraction. Hers is a curious mind built from floor scraps, intuition, and common sense. Yet to release the fluid properties of a material that at first glance appears stoic is less yeoman’s minimalist gesture and more nod to the infectious, curvilinear bass lines of Prince. Much of contemporary art is bound to the gallery walls by hot glue but that fact alone cannot adhere it’s inherent ideas (if there are any) into our psyche any more than Instagram, try as it might, can create nostalgia. When art provides opportunities for viewers and patrons to access previous, personal encounters and then to bridge into new ones, then viola!, a curtain has been lifted. Here, Martinez’s leads the viewer down a sinuous path of sexy dreams and chance encounters to discover new intent within.
Despite the obvious material differences (one predominately hard, the other largely soft), the shows are held together less by constituent play and more by this realization: we are always tottering on the brink. The haves and the have-nots, each unto themselves, seemingly separate from one another, surround us on First Friday. You can decide which is which, but together they inscribe crossing roads frequently more choked with traffic than interaction. Sadly, some of the most practiced and nuanced work at these events is now being done by workers dressed in reflective vests, standing on street corners, flashlight-in-hand, repeatedly guiding cars into tight spaces. Multiplicity counts in art endeavors.
Warren and Martinez have each succeeded in flipping our expectations about art. Patrons however, to be rewarded as such, must practice the art viewing gesture as seriously as they might view dance, theater, or film. In order to move our minds, our art encounters have to be more than end-of-week networking. Literal translations do not guide us well into the future nor meaningfully interpret the past.
- Peter Warren, Through Thread; paint, 300 yr-old yellow pine, ~7’ x 15’ x 0.5” as installed, 2012.
- Amanda Martinez, Once More, With Feeling; Styrofoam, enamel, 4’ x 2.5’ x 13”, 2012.
1. Earth & Sky, 2012, Is the biggest and closest full moon on May 5th, 2012, a super moon?
2. Prince, Erotic City, 1984, 12″ Warner Brothers 0-20246 (US)
m.o.i.aka The Minister of Information @ Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, MO, USA examines artistic, cultural, social, and political practices in a consumer society.