Thursday, July 10, 2014

Conceptual Art is a Two-Way Street

by Drew Martin
Gavin Brown and Maccarone are neighboring galleries that are a hop, skip, and a jump from my work. I do not make a special effort to go there for openings and such - it is more like running errands. I had a few minutes at lunch today so I stopped by on my way to D'Agostino's for some cheap sushi.

My favorite space of the two galleries today was the front room at Gavin Brown, part of Ash's Stash by Oliver Payne and Nick Relph. It has the white glow of a Kidrobot store, but on display here are clusters of assemblages that have a lot of sneakers as well as an equal amount of Tamagotchis.

Typically, the garage-sale approach to installations does not do much for me. I do not think it is groovy when an artist drags all of his crap into a gallery. It's's lazy. My attitude about this reminds me of an interview I once read with a cougar who said that when a young guy asks her to come back with him to his pad she asks, "Is it clean?"

Ash's Stash works because it is as if some messy bachelor was expecting guests so he cleaned up really well but did not know what to do with his junk so he made little arrangements out of everything and happened upon some aesthetically pleasing gems while doing so. And, best of all, many of them simply make you laugh.

When I left the galleries to continue on with my errands, I passed by some bulk items being discarded, which included rectangular shelving, one board with a rounded end, and part of a picket fence gate. These items were leaning up against a metal gate backed by a high picket fence. As usual, I stopped and took a picture and walked away as I posted a square of it to Instagram.

I pass this kind of crap all the time and I usually take pictures but today I had a kind of epiphany. Junk art has a long history. Van Gogh painted a rubbish pile, Rauschenberg sphinctered a stuffed Angora goat with a rubber tire
, Duchamp displayed urinals and snow shovels, etc. The readymades, and the chotchkie arrangements have always declared two things: the first is that anything can be art but the second (which is totally contradictory) is that the iconoclastic artist who gathered and used everyday materials elevated them and did so with a kind of command that his talent gave him artistic license so he should therefore be credited and rewarded.

The real effect on society of all of this is not a takeaway from an art show that played on these themes, or some relationship with such objects when they were on display in a museum or gallery, but a way of seeing with which we return to the world around us that allows us to see things differently, whether that be in the appreciation of a design of a household object or about the relationship of objects (like in the street picture, which I took today - bottom)