On view this month at Martos Gallery, the group show Passages explores artists’ relationship to time and memory, space and persona. Taking the notion of cultural recycling as a starting point for art making in these doom-stricken times, the show relies on material and its overabundance as a jumping off point for exploring the act of making, and the goals of the artist in the modern era.
In the view of the gallery, the show seems to ask what the point of art might be: “cultural detritus, over-accessibility and crowding means the artists in this show exhibit a tenacity in defiance of a world that certainly doesn’t need another object.” From this starting point, the show paints these artists as inheritors of a world of pathologies and challenges they certainly never requested, but nevertheless venture a response. Throughout Passages clocks tick, countdowns are set, and tension builds. In Sandy Williams IV’s video Endurance VI, for instance, we witness a strongman in a Budweiser American flag tank top steady a teacup over his head to the point of exhaustion in the American history section of a library. Sweat drips down his body as he holds the cup above his head for over 30 minutes, toward the end of the performance he groans, and the cup begins to rattle. His failure to continue marks the video’s conclusion. Williams IV suggests the precarity of upholding focal points of American idealism – masculinity, corporatism, whiteness, text booked history. By contrast, Alex Chaves’s clock paintings are taken from Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) and the set of the haunted Manderley. Hitchcock used these shadowy clocks to emphasize the ominous unraveling of the second Mrs. de Winter as she uncovers the mystery of the drowned first wife, Rebecca. The paintings are artifacts, arrested in a moment (unlike real clocks), they pay homage to the authority and command of time upon our lives and both the profundity and unease that grants each moment.
Tyree Guyton’s Man Of Steel (which the artist scrawled “Time” across) stands proudly as a nail punctures his groin – reflective of a retreating phallocracy? Indeed, there’s a certain feminization world in decline and our redacted male archetypes. Time may not be on our side. Bradley Kronz’s video Chromatic plunges us into the nebula of pop appropriation as strange assemblages of recent movies and television are interspersed in galactic renderings based on David Hockney’s popularized photo effect. Strange, fractionalized times indeed – with internet proliferation and streaming video, the media has become an infinite abyss of sci-fi absurdity. Sam Anderson’s sensitive sculptures speak to this peculiar situation, her figurines of humans and animals allegorize arresting, intimate moments of reckoning like self and other and the organic and the industrial. Architectural motifs like gates, cages, and platforms frame the encounters of the figurines.
Throughout, these works pose real challenges to the domain of time, asking just to what end we might conflate material with intangible movements of the clock. The show closes March 4th.
– D. Creahan
Martos Gallery [Exhibition Site]