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New York
Josh Tonsfeldt
Simon Preston Gallery
301 Broome Sytreet, New York, NY 10002
April 24, 2013 - June 2, 2013

A Ruin Loading
by Matthew Shen Goodman

As New York wilts under May’s overripe humidity, Simon Preston Gallery’s latest show carries an appropriately strong whiff of decay. A solo exhibition by Josh Tonsfeldt, the eponymous show is split between Simon Preston and GalerieVidalCuglietta, in Brussels. The two spaces are united by a process of architectural superimposition; Tonsfeldt’s multifaceted installation strews both spaces with structural elements and material ephemera, all of which originated from an abandoned Iowan farm home, now burnt down. The home seems to haunt the spaces in Tonsfeldt’s partial reconstructions, as he’s erected skeletal, half-done walls of wood and plaster that divide the galleries, built along lines mirroring the house’s original floor plans. The sensation is bolstered by the smattering of found objects scattered about, like talismans of the structure’s rematerialization. At Simon Preston, a yellow long bow hugs one wall, unstrung and tufted with what resembles an over-used feather duster. Elsewhere, a copy of Reader’s Digest Practical Problem Solver lies askew on the floor, covered with grime.

Tonsfeldt applies his architectural two-step of accrual and careful subtraction to some of the smaller individual details as well, with two pieces of furniture in the show’s central room marvelously evidencing that particular logic. Half of a formica table stands perfectly against the wall, stacked with warped panels of fiberglass and wood; diagonally across from the table is a metal chair, also halved. Hovering impossibly at an angle, the chair seems as if it should be falling through the floor. The furniture salvaged from the Iowan site, their remaining halves lie in the GalerieVidalCuglietta,drawing the two galleries closer in the farm’s odd afterlife.

Josh Tonsfeldt, Installation view; Courtesy Simon Preston Gallery.


To the viewer preoccupied with the iconography of digital media this might resemble a ruin loading. It’s a testament to Tonsfeldt’s abilities that, in the recent glut of net art and the New Aesthetic, he’s able to subtly evoke some of the unworldly possibilities of digital imagery—namely, the infinite overlap of graphics editing and modeling software—with nary a pixel in sight.

The rest of the show at Simon Preston takes place in the gallery’s rear section, cordoned off by those partial walls. Tonsfeldt lined frames with archival paper, smudging them with pits of pigment and text. Some come glorious close to being detritus. An especially scuzzy piece is adorned with a spray-painted spider’s web, knotted and clumpy, clinging to the frame’s corner. At times, Tonsfeldt lends more aesthetically standard moments of visual clarity by placing found photography in the works, but they mainly document equally slovenly scenes. One features pigs rooting about, another an undecipherable mess of twisted metal and plant life.

Josh Tonsfeldt, Installation view; Courtesy Simon Preston Gallery.


All in all, it’s unclear what draws Tonsfeldt to the house in Iowa, but there’s something compelling in the show’s seemingly contingent nature. The lack of apparent motive gives it the feel of a naturally occurring event—as if one day the structural elements suddenly manifested in the space, accompanied by those bits of grit and debris. Though perhaps a bit reticent, it’s a pleasantly enigmatic sort of blossoming, perfectly in time with spring.


Matthew Shen Goodman


(Image on top: Josh Tonsfeldt, Untitled, 2013, pigment inks on reverse of Fuji crystal archive paper, envelope and pigment prints in artist's frame, overall: 40 x 40 in.; Courtesy of the artist & Simon Preston Gallery.)

Posted by Matthew Shen Goodman on 5/20/13 | tags: photography installation mixed-media sculpture

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