Walking into Air de Pied-à-terre, the newest show on display at artist Lisa Cooley’s gallery, one is reminded of an otherworldly hotel lobby. With the help of fellow artist and curator Alan Reid, Cooley has created an “Air de-Pied-à-Terre” (an alternative living space, located away from one’s home). The gallery has numerous articles that evoke a nostalgic atmosphere within the show – mobiles that dance around the room, paintings that mimic children’s creations, and homely looking text juxtaposed against more classical looking portraiture. The entirety of the show is punctuated by stereotypically domestic constituents such as chairs and potted plants that engulf the viewer and invite them to make themselves at home.
Air de Pied-à-terre (Installation View), via Lisa Cooley
Each element of the show, on first inspection, may seem iconic in its homely essence, but after a closer look reveals an odd twist to this ‘to the environmental landscape. The suggestive mobiles, constructed by artist Hanna Sandin, are actually comprised of kitchen utensils, blackened to reinforce a paradox of functionality. Instead of being soothing, the work seems to evoke menace and foreboding, reiterating the dangers of a household kitchen. The inclusion of the piece within Cooley’s constructed environment conveys a sense of unease within the setting created by the curators.
Sandin’s collection is not the only ominous work to be incorporated into the show. Birgir Andresson’s powerful use of linguistics also makes a striking contribution, leaving the audience to decipher their surroundings through a new lens. Beginning with; “A knife, ten centimetres long…” the work immediately provokes a sense of discomfort from the viewer. Its ambiguity, placed in context with the other sinister elements of the gallery, makes each work all the more menacing. Evoking tapestries more often found in a rural home, the artist’s modern parody of sinister language catches the viewer off guard. The reference to a ‘knife’ also links the concept seamlessly to Sandin’s kitchen utensil medium.
Coinciding with Sandin’s text is the obscure lettering of the co-curator, Alan Reid. His pieces, Beauty, midnight, vision dies and Reasons to Love link to the obscurity of the other textual images. Lettering from alternative alphabets are framed amidst pastel geometrical forms, consisting of a multitude of semi-circles and oblongs. The symbols of a foreign language reinforces the displaced nature of the show, suggesting the viewer should feel out of their comfort zone. They are scrawled and disjointed, and the artist’s plain white background cannot provide clarity to the works, providing an overwhelming sense of confusion.
The structural formations surrounding Reid’s lettering, and hinted at via Sandin’s mobiles, are further explored in Lisa Williamson’s Lavender Clay, a boldly coloured, elongated horseshoe that adds to the sum eeriness of Cooley’s compiled environment. Against the backdrop of the whitewashed gallery, Williamson’s work appears to almost float. Its earthen colorations and rustic implications further the environmental dissonance , making it more suited to an interior opposed to an outdoor vicinity such as a barn. The paradox hinted at via this oddity leaves an uncanny taste in the viewers’ mouths and, perhaps, makes them long for the comfort of their own homes.
Exploring the bizarre interrelations of seemingly disparate objects, Cooley and Reid’s “Air Pied-à-terre” is an intriguing exercise in constructed meaning, abandoning rational correspondences to explore the total effect of a compiled set of objects.
The show is on view through February 3rd.