Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Cata Cata Cata Caterpillar You Glow Inside My Head

by Drew Martin
The shows at the Kate Werble Gallery are starting to feel like manifestations of my recent conversations. First, there was LIVESTRONG by Christopher Chiappa with 7,000 egg sculptures, which I stumbled upon less than an hour after a conversation with a coworker about bioengineering down the size of egg yolks. And now this: Sugar Computer/Electrocate, by Brock Enright with a motif of caterpillars, which I visited the day after another coworker had me look at hundreds of caterpillars on her screen (poem research).

The exquisite variety of caterpillars only make up a fraction of the Enright's work but they share the quirky assemblage of the free-box materials used throughout. There is nothing deep or insightful in this show but it is a nice detour from reality - not in a fantastical surreal way but rather more like a hipster Dada pause: dry wit, and a little snarky. The deliberate placement is short of categorical, which saves it from being too academic, but arranged in such a playful way that it raises it a notch above being scrappy. One artist that some of the work (hairy things in clear plastic balls) reminded me of is Montecito-based Joan Tanner, but with a little less maturity. None-the-less it is a delightfully peculiar entrapment with lots of little systems of imagination and creative juxtaposition.

There are two raked poppy seed Zen gardens, one in each room of the gallery, but their scale left me wanting more, as if I could feel that the artist envisioned them at a larger size but made a compromise. It is hard to compete with what has already been done for "bulk material" projects, such as Ai Wei Wei's one billion handmade porcelain sunfower seeds at the Tate Modern in London, Ann Hamilton's 750,000 honey-bound pennies at the Capp Street Project in San Francisco, Walter De Maria's 140 tons of dirt in Dia's Earth Room in Manhattan, or similar type wall-to-wall installations by a multitude of artists such as Brooklyn-based Tara Donovan. I could not scale the poppy seed plots up in my mind to match the famous rock gardens of Kyoto which I have seen in person (and Enright is referencing) because they actually make me think more about the miniature sand versions people have on their desks at work. It is another curious move by the gallery to relate to Japanese art that borders on cultural appropriation. The last show, Duplify, had a reinterpreted, multi-media tokonoma. That being said, the poppy seeds are a beautiful material to use. I have not seen them in art but they bring back good memories of my favorite pastries from my days in "Eastern Europe." They also have the feeling of volcanic cinder, and I guess I could even entertain their opiate effect and look at the work as the musings of a doped-up artist.

The only pieces that actually took me past their object status and sent me on a tangent were variations of coiled garden hoses, Green Sex, and Breathe in breathe out, which are accented with numerous colorfully beaded pins, like micro-banderillas (the barbed sticks used by banderilleros in bullfights to enrage and at the same time weaken the bull prior to the matador's entrance). They remind me of the cover for A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, the semi-fictional novel about a recovering junkie in rehab, which caused outrage with Oprah and many other people who felt duped because they had expressed great sympathy for Frey since he had the published the book as a memoir but it was later revealed as a sensationalized revision of what he actually experienced. My thought on this was that "Am I lying or telling the truth?" transgression doesn't really matter in the art world any more because we no longer look to artists with great expectations since what they produce is less and less about cultural enhancement and more and more about amusing themselves and visual entertainment.

Any kind of ready-made automatically calls to mind Marcel Duchamp (urinal, snow shovels, etc) but the multiple piercings of these objects render them functionless as water-carrying hoses and made me think about Chris Burden, the early-on struggling artist Chris Burden, who would make sure he could return his materials after the show. In one lecture he gave that I sat in on in the early 1990s he explained that he took all the money he got for an installation and bought a diamond, which he suspended by a thread and singularly lit in a dark room. After the show he sold it. Even though Home Depot has the best return policy in the world I don't think they would give Enright his money back for these hoses...maybe instore credit.

Kate mentioned that she likes how the hoses remind her of "infinity loops" but I would not go there; they are not that profound.