The topic here is object. Solid State is defined in the press release as inert matter that shows resistance to change and volume. For a group show, this could be a blanket reference to the still life as subject, or simply a catch all for objects in general. Specifically, the gallery sets the stage by asking the question “…can an object be simply handled by the artist and remain banal?” Thus this show could be interpreted as the beginnings of a revisionist perspective on found objects. Solid State consists of the work of five artists and the art that they have produced concerning the inert and inanimate, and apparently, it is up to the audience to privately answer the question posed in the press release.
Of the five artists in Solid State, Barb Choit’s work maintains a stabilizing position and it would be difficult to address her work without acknowledging Choit’s significant project called the Division Museum of Ceramics and Glassware. As the title suggests, Choit’s project was a museum, which may have been the smallest in the world when it was housed for several years in a one hundred square foot storefront on Division Street. For this project, Choit maintained regular exhibition hours showing scores of donated pieces of dishware, but the donations were hardly generous as each piece had been discarded for obvious damage that often rendering the objects useless. Of the many institutional dialogues that this project brought up, one the key issues that ties it to Solid State is the maddening hoarder’s impulse to collect and categorize items that should really have been thrown out to begin with. Choit’s contributions to this show are two framed, archival photographs taken from her museum collection and showing otherwise unremarkable cups in a state of disrepair, but wrapped and numbered as if they should be saved for an important purpose.
Other work in Solid State could be considered less conceptual but no less concerned with the ordinary. One of the show’s highlights is certainly Swedish painter Viktor Kopp’s piece called Small Chocolate. The canvas is divided into four even squares painted in subtle gradations of umber and sienna and rendered with such persuasion that you want to take a bite out of the thick, moist brush strokes that betray the possibility that this piece of chocolate might actually be in the act of transforming from its solid to its liquid state. With no less conviction, Daniel Lefcourt has provided us with a triumphant, monochromatic image of a black rock on linen. Again, the artist has taken an insignificant object and delicately replicated each little and crag and crevice so that it appears a to be rock and a shimmering black velvet egg all at once.
Back to the original question posed by the gallery “…can an object be simply handled by the artist and remain banal?” Yes and no. It would seem that if you ask an open question like this you are likely get an open answer. In the work of Barb Choit, the object is clearly left intact and only the context has been manipulated and so we can say that the object remains banal. With work such as Kopp and Lefcourt we have a completely pedestrian object that has been lovingly elevated to a larger than life signifier and it would be silly to contend that the result is banal. The rest of the work in Solid State tends towards Choit’s position giving the show a generally mixed message. In the end, the varied responses serve more to support the weight of the original question and remind us once again that some questions are not mean to have definitive answers but can be resolved differently in each instance. This next question however, is weather or not any of this supports a revised perspective of found objects.
Images: Barb Choit, Temporary Inventory #7: The Division Museum of Ceramics and Glassware, January 2008 (2008),Color photograph, 20 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Rachel Uffner Gallery; Viktor Kopp, Small Chocolate (2010), Oil on canvas, 17 3/4 x 12 1/2 inches. Courtesy of Bureau.