We live in uncertain times of deep cynicism and audacious hope. Assumed structures, both political and social, once deemed infallible have once again revealed their cracks. Our global world has reshuffled historic relationships, shifting economic and cultural paradigms, while fires, floods and war ravage the landscape. As these once promising structures break around us, we are forced to reconsider our place in the world as both physical and psychological beings. There is no synonym for hope showcases work by 15 emerging international artists who use sculpture, photography, drawing, and site-specific installation to examine the contemporary landscape of uncertainty, and explore the consequences of these eroding structures.
Failing structures breed anxiety, fostering a climate of disillusionment and vulnerability, while also opening a void of possibility. As established systems break apart, we are left with the boundlessness of a model yet to be defined, a new beginning to rebuild and try again. Yet the visions presented in this exhibition are far from utopian. Working under a looming recession and a saturated art market, the artists in this show reflect survivalist and escapist tendencies; they are insolent and resilient, inspired not by a blind optimism, but by an obstinate hope that continuously drives their art production. There is no synonym for hope seeks to capture the emotional, political and psychological responses elicited by the interrelationship of hope and failure.
Sonya Blesofsky's architectural structures—delicately constructed of tape, paper and string—evoke a powerful psychological response as they slowly sag and fail over time. Her work undermines man-made marvels of engineering, all the while memorializing their efforts. Study for Midtown Tower Crane (Ghost) is a nearly life-sized crane that visitors must pass beneath to enter the exhibition. Exploring the tension between creation and destruction, stability and the tenuous, Blesofky's Crane illustrates the instability of the urban landscape to reveal the fragility inherent in all forms of security.
Takashi Horisaki's sculptural practice is an exploration of surfaces--pock-marked by time, weather and erosion--and the forgotten histories imbedded in these surfaces. Inspired by Smack Mellon's historic home, Horisaki creates a latex 'skin' on the walls, he then partially peels it away to reveal hidden, latent meanings. Playing on latex's ephemeral and transparent qualities, Horisaki raises site-specific questions about visible and invisible histories and the architectural and social identity of a place.
In his Rocks and Caves installation, Andrew Scott Ross takes an anthropological approach to exploring culture as a fragile and flexible construct. Using paper as a metaphor for the human ability to craft and manipulate meaning, Ross cuts out hundreds of tiny paper figures enacting festivals, rituals, work, and warfare, and arranges them in a topography of the crumpled office paper from which they were cut.
Beth Krebs' playful installations subvert architectural structures to present unexpected possibilities. In her site-specific installation for Smack Mellon, curious moving shadows appear to come through the gallery’s ventilation grate, perforating the boundaries of the enclosed space, and prompting the viewer to imagine new escape routes beyond the everyday.
In Marionation, Karrie Hovey constructs an abstracted map of Washington D.C. out of hand-felted strips which she laboriously mated, scrubbed and tortured. Suspended limp and malleable over a map of central Tehran drawn entirely of sand, Hovey reveals the vulnerability present in these constructed systems of power and control that arbitrarily define both our borders and identity.
Since immigrating to the US as a child, MiYoung Sohn has employed visual language as a tool to understand American culture. Her installation One Dollar USA consists of crumpled dollar bills which she photographed, printed, and hand cut in the exact amount she will earn at her day job from the date of this project’s commission to the exhibition’s opening date. Sohn’s worthless pile of money addresses shifting economic paradigms and questions the contemporary viability of the American dream.
In a similarly autobiographical approach, Joshua Eggleton's humorous and cynical self-portraits explore the anxiety he feels as he navigates the dual identities of artist and tradesperson. In his drawing Balducci Prestige, Eggleton depicts every tool in his tool belt suspended in a moment of perfect balance, teetering on the verge of collapse. Though the artist seems in control, he himself floats in a void, without any feet to stand on.
Growing up first generation Chinese-American, Jeff Kao created an aesthetic informed by the clear divide between good and evil he found signified in World War I and II military insignia. Constantly negotiating the line between hope and disillusionment, Kao obsessively prepares for the impending siege, building bunk beds armed with machine guns, and a model of his family home equipped with sonar and hovering fighter planes. In Valve, Kao hand paints a tree house with an extension ladder on the walls of Smack Mellon, metaphorically enacting the "melodrama of the battered and outnumbered squadron's heroic last stand."
Each piece in K Staelin's "imMediate" series begins as layers of mirror and glass, onto which she etches portions of iconic photographs of war victims from Vietnam and Iraq. The mirrored objects are then photographed in ways that reflect our everyday surroundings, highlighting the irreconcilability of war with our daily life. These complex images evoke questions of photography and memory, gender and perspective, self-portraiture and anonymity, history and familiarity.
José Luis Cortés S. exhausts the banal materials and objects of his physical and social surroundings to emphasize the vulnerability and fragility inherent in our daily existence. A native of Mexico City, Cortés S. performs pointed interventions in everyday processes, and then subjects these processes to a series of arbitrary rules as a way to disrupt our presupposed notions of possibility. The resulting assemblages engage the imagination through unexpected constructions that twist conventional notions of reality, space, and time.
In his "mini-installations," Noah Nakell explores human fragility through our relationship with the natural world. Addressing deforestation and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, among other natural and man-made disasters, Nakell examines the tentative and often destructive position that humans hold in the environment.
Petra Kralickova's organic, abstract shapes are metaphors for the resilience and fragility of a human body pushed to its physical and emotional limits. In her site-specific piece de-fin-ing balance, Kralickova isolates, exaggerates, and reduces the body to its most basic elements. Heavy with sand and pulled taunt with thread, her amorphous shapes highlight the body in the suspended state of longing, emphasizing the brevity of life and our own mortality.
In her photographic series, I am not promising you a wonderful world, Cristina Fontsare looks to adolescents as an embodiment of fragility and possibility in a dystopic world. Illuminating each scene by the light cast from a flashlight, Fontsare constructs ungrounded narratives that explore a landscape rife with anxiety and uncanny moments of beauty.
Viewing art as a fatalistic encounter, Samuel Ekwurtzel translates his everyday interactions into interactive sculptures and installations that are often camouflaged, so that they are "stumbled over/upon/into." For Smack Mellon, Ekwurtzel will strategically install a single life-size shivering lamb sculpture. Quivering and stranded from the rest of its flock, his lamb references religious iconography and issues of cloning, while inspiring empathy as it makes us aware of our own vulnerability and mortality.
There are two distinct people in the work of Rachel Hines: you and her. Working across disciplines, Hines creates circumstances of intimacy that are reliant on the participation of her audience for the full experience. By asking us to become both collaborator and part of the piece, Hines invites us to examine vulnerability, insecurity, and the hope of possibility.
This exhibition is made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Greenwall Foundation, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Jerome Foundation, Richard Massey, Judith and Donald Rechler Foundation Inc., Eve Sussman and Smack Mellon's Members. Smack Mellon also receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Member David Yassky and the New York City Council, Bloomberg, Brooklyn Arts Council, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., Independence Community Foundation, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., Lily Auchincloss Foundation Inc., Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation Inc., New York Community Trust, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Inc., The Starry Night Fund of Tides Foundation, and William Talbott Hillman Foundation.
Space for Smack Mellon's programs is generously provided by the Walentas Family and Two Trees Management.
Public Transportation to Smack Mellon: F train to York Street, A/C train to High Street, B61 Bus to York and Gold