The press release reveals little on what’s to expect, however, it includes a text musing on the state of the new millennials and contemporary Los Angeles:
“…a self-motivated (or self-driven) sign to give up on nostalgia. Fact: There is no crying in stadiums. Also, there is no crying in the South, either. You read a blank billboard built on the False Word of God and you want to cry, but in this light, all you can do is squint. You stare at a statue carved by the sweaty hands of a half-assed apologist and you want to cry, but in this heat, all you can do is sweat. People getting fired; people getting fired up.”
The distribution of the artist taxon is cosmopolitan or pandemic, meaning they’re found in almost every geographic region, as are the orca, brown rat and pigeon. Despite global ubiquity and a presupposed universal artistic experience, the contours of their respective humanity are molded by municipal markets, governments, climates. Nucleic cities with legacy begin to resemble a Ballardian high-rise; the artist’s isolation and myopia makes geography feel theoretical due to its confines, creating a warped Earth that exists insofar as an individual can directly engage with and sense it. Erin Jane Nelson and Jason Benson of Atlanta-based gallery Species magnify the a-centric, “where life happens slower”, in Peachtree Industrial, a group exhibition running at New York’s Bodega from June 24 to August 7. It creates a cartographical rendering of artists and works encountered in the curators’ former home of Oakland, California, and their new residency in Atlanta, Georgia.
Discovered in Oakland is Josh Minkus, Lily van der Stokker and Chloé Elizabeth Maratta. Minkus’s piece ‘Lipe (tabloid)’ is a series of patents by mechanical engineer Charles E. Lipe from the late 19th century, coinciding with the operation of his eponymous incubator in Syracuse. Beneath the raised patent list is a series of small machine-objects constructed of lead, zinc, wire and plaster, likely deconstructed components of his designs. Illustrations by van der Stokker, namely ‘Artdoctor’ and ‘Soft, Tidy’ are diaphanous, painted and drawn with soft hues. The adjoining texts substantiate a drive towards the sacramental, ritual purification, a sudden launch into the throes of managing psychic trauma: “go into therapy with the Artdoctor to become a healthy artperson”. ‘No Good Only My Good’ by Maratta details a written autoharp tutorial tarnished with sand, pasted over a photo of a microphone and musical equipment. The tutorial applauds experimentation: “[h]ave fun, experiment with the sounds and be sure to share your music with your family and friends!” As sharing makes creative output prone to gazes and critique, the work’s title functions as an aphorism for circumventing an art practice that is subservient to mass approval and markets.
In Atlanta, Nelson and Benson encounter Bessie Harvey, Jiha Moon, Saige Rowe and Jane Fox Hipple. Both ‘Bupe’ and ‘Untilted (Root Face)’ by the late-Harvey use found wood as their foundations, both painted to have eyes and mouth, but not oriented in a way that assumes human, animal or apparition; as a visionary artist, her work was shaped by the Christian God and the natural world, each of her works an act of faith. Similar to Harvey’s sculptures, Moon’s porcelain and earthenware works have referential contours and faces but feel cryptographic or teratological —‘BROD (Blue and Red Onion Doll)’ stands on two non-human legs with two ears resembling the faces of wide-eyed children.
In an exhibition concerning life in the periphery, Rowe’s video ‘three short general movements followed by a lull’ operates well as a bucolic mise en abyme, allowing human body and its surroundings to coalesce and melt into one another, blurring chair into shoe into grass. ‘Thought Pivot (the analyst)’ by Hipple layers the illusory Rubin’s vase over a nearly-symmetrical Rorschachian painting. Her slender rebar and steel sculpture ‘site’ could easily pierce the ground to become a physical marker for psychoanalytic reference.
Peachtree Industrial is not a celebration of decentralizing influence, but a venture outside of the American canon of individualism, facilitating poetic human relations through travel —perhaps existence at the non-center forms social bonds that are not founded in an interest of the self. In tandem the works successfully communicate the Species duo’s admiration for the serendipity of discovery before it was coded, simulated and mired in networks.**
Repeating contours create patterns in everyday arenas both human and non-human, ecological and technological, ephemeral and solidified in mortar. In his 2013 lecture part of the Image Employment exhibition at MoMA PS1, Michael Bell-Smith details the ‘readymade effect’, occurring when users can easily imitate professional production methods: musical micro-genre nightcore garners attention on SoundCloud just by using pitch-shift, and various apps perform graphic design fundamentals directly from an image in an iOS Camera Roll. Opportunities to exercise an entrepreneurial spirit and claim ownership using these procedures have infiltrated most industries and invoke a perverse labor economy. The stakes surrounding ‘prosumerism‘ and the formulaic production are examined in default at Los Angeles’ Honor Fraser, a group exhibition curated by Eden Phair and running from April 30 to June 11.
As detailed in the press release, the lexicon of the readymade was first employed in 1915. In direct conversation with the historicity of the found object, Mungo Thomson’s series Inclusions displays instructional books on home improvement and special effects cast in lucite, proposing unsettling thought for antiquated media formats. Erin Jane Nelson uses a similar historical narrative but bonds it with nowness. Two quilts stitched with video stills from security camera footage used to monitor her dog at her studio, mixes personal with impersonal and tech-solutionism with classical dexterous labor.
Assembly-line factory labor and the readymade came to exist almost simultaneously in the early 20th century, initiating a timeline where formerly scarce products become widely available. Cheryl Donegan’s printed leggings makes note of exploitative factory labor in creating garments, and serves as the foundation of do-it-yourself websites that applaud its users for transmuting kitschy design ideas into a bespoke product. Adam Parker Smith’s sculpture of now-neglected objects from childhood materials suggests that we’re condemned to participate in a consumer stage of the consumption cycle before developing a sense of object permanence.
As Bell-Smith addresses that the panning and zooming action of the ‘Ken Burns effect’ is easily achievable in iMovie, so too do some works in default indulge the conversation around readymade effects that already exist. Conventional video and photo work from Victoria Fu and Guthrie Lonergan comes across as platitudinal by failing to elaborate on the repercussions of digitally automated features —defaults situated around defaults. Fu’s work ‘Belle Captive II’ places found stock videos in front of hazy, pastel-colored backgrounds. As stock imageries and their malleability have been previously explored, in detail, by artists like Timur Si-Qin, Fu’s contribution to readymade outcomes are only a reiteration. Trisha Baga’s piece ‘Competition/Competition’ provokes a more interesting relationship to found objects, incorporating a speculative realist dialect. The silent, single-channel video projected onto a foam board depicts two indecipherable symbols being drawn and then rotating counter-clockwise. As the video is refracted through a water bottle, the interaction amongst the elements in Baga’s work is something one could stumble upon organically —a serendipitous refraction of light in a home office.
In a discussion oriented around the prefabricated, the most interesting works of default demonstrate how conventional objects and patterns are essential to and operate in realms outside of commodity exchanges. Jesse Stecklow and Morgan Canavan’s work is pronounced because it speaks to a rhizomatic non-human affect stemming from human signals and consumption. Copies of The Financial Times covered in mothballs sit atop two metal dog feeders, creating pillars that facilitate human neglect and privilege. Objects can address the animals for us. As Donna Haraway writes in ‘The Companion Species Manifesto‘, “[m]an took the (free) wolf and made the (servant) dog and so made civilization possible.” It’s possible the ultrasonic dog-whistle used in Stecklow and Canvan’s work acts as an authoritative hyperobject, even as its sound is imperceptible to humans.
Manhole covers, a repeating symbol-object in the coded city, created by Miami-Dutch display humans migrating by foot; opacity from the aegis of the underground facilitates continued existence. Three separate manhole covers are oxidized and weathered, framing the human silhouettes as the crest of what could also operate as a coat of arms of the global citizen. Violent national borders and cultural hegemony fold in on themselves, creating an exterior underground covered by heavy lids, a network for subaltern survival. Adjacently is ‘Knotting the Swallowtail’, a tapestry of worn shoe insoles and laces, varying in size and color, hanging from the ceiling. One of the strongest works in the exhibition, Miami-Dutch posits that these objects function beyond an aesthetic signifier of identity. Shoe soles come in contact with terrain devastated by colonialism, nuclear waste and anthropogenic detriment. If manholes create darkness during underground travel and shrouds an accumulation of dirt and mud, light at the end of the journey will allow for an examination of elapsed time and travel.
default makes legible and expands upon the uncertainties originally postulated in Bell-Smith’s discussion of the readymade effect. The works in tandem create an overall feeling of un-resolve, an important foundation in navigating possible futures created by technocracy. The readymade object is often subject to becoming alien, reterritorialized, forgotten. default’s greatest accomplishment is in highlighting when these objects are emblematic of the most paramount human experiences.**