michael j. morris


MIKE: an exhibition featuring No Place Studios

Last night I had the opportunity to see a new exhibit at The Gallery at Till Dynamic Fare. I love this space. I’ve see exceptional performances in this space—such as Leigh Lotocki and Noelle Chun’s Hold Swayand participated in community events hosted by Till—namely the ongoing activities of the Peach District, such as last June’s Peach District Classic, an all day party featuring a spectacular line-up of live performance where I performed in a dance worked conceived of by Zachariah Baird and Sharon Udo, and this year’s Noble Peach Awards, an award show honoring members of the Columbus community who might otherwise escape notice, where I had the honor of presenting Eileen Galvin with the award for Biggest Genderfuck. This space is already special to me, and “MIKE: an exhibition featuring No Place Studios” adds even more significance to this list.

“MIKE” is the first exhibition presenting the work of No Place Studios. These nine artists graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design in 2012, and established the studio based on friendship, rebellion, and a shared drive to create contemporary art in Columbus. This introductory exhibition of No Place Studios coincides with a kicking off of exhibitions and arts events this season at the re-instated gallery inside Till dynamic fare. This exhibit was organized by Leigh Lotocki, adding to the list great work that Leigh has done in this city.

I didn’t think I would have time to write about this show, but when I continue to be struck by work that I’ve seen a day later, I don’t know how to not respond to it in writing. There’s a lot of good work in this show, but there were several pieces that specifically captured my attention:

The first is entitled “We’re going on vacation” by Erin McKenna (2013).

McKenna_1

Erin McKenna
we’re going on vacation
2013
altered pieces of hot tub, glitter, flocking, sculptamold, expanding foam, acrylic paint, enamel paint, vinyl, bowling ball

Erin McKenna we're going on vacation 2013 altered pieces of hot tub, glitter, flocking, sculptamold, expanding foam, acrylic paint, enamel paint, vinyl, bowling ball

Erin McKenna
we’re going on vacation
2013
altered pieces of hot tub, glitter, flocking, sculptamold, expanding foam, acrylic paint, enamel paint, vinyl, bowling ball

Erin McKenna we're going on vacation 2013 detail

Erin McKenna
we’re going on vacation
2013
detail

This work consists of five free standing sculptural pieces, each one a twisting topography of color, texture, scale, and luminosity, rough pinks and glittery silvers and shimmering blacks pushing against smooth, swirling teals and blues, resting on geometric puddles of highly reflective vinyl. I say resting, but these pieces don’t really rest; even stationary, they seem to turn, or rather they persistently insist that I move around them.

Constructed from altered pieces of a fiber glass hot tub, each form continually solicits my attention. As I approach it from one side, slivers and glimpses of another facet are reflected in the metallic vinyl. I am drawn around to another side by the hint and glint and glow of what I can see only partially, and once I come to this other side, the piece has changed. It is not the same shape from this side, and how its colors sit alongside one another has shifted. Here the black seems to leap out towards me between the pink and the silver. Here the beige of the fiberglass seems to wrap around and embrace the collision of pink and silver. Here the swirled acrylic blues and teals seem to wash up onto a hot glittering pink coast. Here the light is refracted differently, the shimmering glittery surfaces fragmenting the light from above into billions of twinkling points that are then caught and blurred and reflected by the metallic surface above which it sparkles. As I follow the play of light across these multiple twisting surfaces, I realize that I’m moving again, crouching to see how the piece seems to be glowing from underneath, leaning to see what else comes into view just around the curve of its side, stepping forward the see the full fragment framed by the glow from beneath. These objects are choreographing me, in a sense. It’s an indeterminate choreography, or maybe a joint improvisation, a score of movement given by the parameters of the piece. I keep moving in order to keep seeing what else this piece is showing me.

This is not the only way that I feel my body implicated into this piece: there is the unavoidable recognition of the curving ergonomic surfaces of the hot tub from which these objects have been cut. I feel how these sloping ledges and crevices might have curved against my body, supporting my reclining and sitting—not to mention the lifestyle that might afford such leisure. Or maybe this actually must be mentioned: maybe the destruction of the hot tub, the reorientation of its surfaces and supports cannot be considered apart from the lifestyles for which it was designed. The wealthy. The vacationers. The middle class who just want to treat themselves to something nice. However else these surface might have been, they can no longer support such bodies in those ways, and to the degree that the ergonomics of these surfaces were materialized through their orientation towards the surfaces of such leisurely bodies, to see them as they are now—dismembered, manipulated—I feel my own body differently as well. It’s subtle. I don’t feel myself going to pieces, but as I crouch and twist and lean and move along these surfaces with my sight, the body of mine that could press against these curves and slopes as they are now would not, could not, resemble the body for which they were initially designed.

I’m also interested in how the space gets drawn into the materials of the piece, not only in the play of light across the glitter and color and so on, but also how the room, the other art in the gallery, and the viewers get reflected in the sometimes hazy surface of the metallic vinyl. Each object seems to sit in the reflection of a distorted world, a world distorted in ways not dissimilar to the way that my body feels disrupted by the deconstruction of the shape(s) of the hot tub. I cannot tell you much about this world, except to say that it is made less familiar as it is brought into the looking-glass surfaces of McKenna’s work.

As each of these objects continues to disclose or offer more of itself to my attention, I am drawn in again and again by something like interest that bleeds into care. I am becoming invested in these objects, these materials, as they continue to unfold in my attention to them. I stay with them a little longer, and in doing so, I come to see more of them; in fact, my sense is that they come to show me more of themselves. There is something living, something almost ecological developing between us. Sustaining relations are in formation: the ongoing disclosure of the object sustains my attention. I cannot help but think that my attention, along with the attendance and attention of others gathered at this opening, sustains the circulation of these object, the production of such objects, the operation of this gallery space. Further, these relations between myself and these objects initiate and/or sustain other relations, such as social relations, the formation or sustainment of [this] community that has gathered in this space, in this neighborhood.

I have a similar experience with another work in the exhibit: James McDevitt-Stredney‘s “She was so cold to do so” (2013).

James McDevitt-Stredney She was so cold to do so 2013 oil, graphite, enamel on panel

James McDevitt-Stredney
She was so cold to do so
2013
oil, graphite, enamel on panel

This painting does something similar and different with me. Like McKenna’s sculptures, this piece continually draws me into seeing more of itself, more texture, more color, more detail. Rather than moving my body around the space, it draws my eyes over and over and around its surfaces. But the effect is distinct. Here I am drawn into subtle gradients that realize the complexity of what seemed simple on first encounter. For instance, when I first came to this piece, it seemed quite simply “a white painting” with some Cy Twombly-esque graphite doodles that could, from certain angles, suggest a form, with some thick streaks of white paint, and a cluster of hot bright spray paint near the top and off of center. But as my eyes move over its surface(s), I begin to see that this white is actually many whites, many viscosities, many strokes and strata, the accumulation of many actions. Many of these whites are not “pure” white, but rather contain streaks and strains of other colors, other contaminates that are somehow subsumed into what passes as white, but that eventually disclose their presence. Although the bright spots of enamel near the top—pink and orange and yellow bursting into one another—are the most pronounced intrusions of color into what might otherwise seem simply white, they merely mark the most extreme or the most intense of such intrusions. Indeed, as the more subtle spectrums of the painting disclose themselves—the lighter whites, the whites that are more beige, the flat and grey and pink whites—the intensity or extremity of these bright spots seems relatively diminished. They aren’t the only colors on an otherwise white and graphite surface; they are colors among other colors, perhaps the most flamboyant, but deviant only amongst other deviations. Similarly, what seems like an otherwise smooth topographic plane streaked by a few thick marks of white paint in a few places reveals itself to be much more textured, the thick streaks marking the highest “elevations” on a map of other markings. This is central to how I come to experience this piece, the ongoing disclosure of differences and diversity that were not initially visible to me, the rendering of what seems like extremes—white and color, flat and raised—into a spectrum of possibilities. It becomes something about the distribution of contamination, the impossibility of purity or singularity or even duality, the realization of multiplicity.

If I follow the thought process that I started above regarding the solicitation of attention as the constitution of almost ecological sustaining relations, then “She was so cold to do so” emphasizes the further recognition of difference as part of the establishment of such relations. I could almost call this effect queer: if we understand part of the function of “queer” to be the marking of otherwise unmarked possibilities, making feasible what might otherwise be impossible, establishing a spectrum where there was initially a binary, then I might articulate my experience of these pieces alongside one another as facilitating an experience of queer [ecological] relations, in ways that move and reorient my body, in ways that make visible the initially invisible spectrum of marks and surfaces, in ways the inspire my interest, attention, and care.

Needless to say, if you’re in Columbus, I hope you have an opportunity to see this show.
It will be on view from May 10-June 9.
The Gallery at Till Dynamic Fare is located at 247 King Ave, Columbus, Ohio 43201.
There will also be a party there after Gallery Hop, with live music and more snacks in the gallery on Saturday, June 1 from 8–11pm.

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