Topotypes & Conjunctions at Boehm Gallery, Palomar College

Gallery Director Ingram Ober invited me to do this show at Palomar with the specific suggestion to prep two bodies of work for the two rooms in the gallery.

So with that in mind, I fabricated what became three new sets of things from two series that I’ve been working through lately. It’s all new work made specifically for this space.

Here’s a floor plan of Boehm Gallery.

GALLERY LAYOUT

I work in multiple series at the same time, and for this show I wanted to push along two series that I’ve been hoping to exhibit. Specifically, I wanted to make both 3d and 2d work and force the various ideas to intersect at the content of domestic organization.

I’ve written another blog post here about the Topotypes series, which are 3d models that originate from 8-letter words. For me, these objects wrench at the idea of self-referentiality and identity-hood. For this show I made objects based on the following words: bookends, armchair, tabletop, endtable. (I also worked on one for the word dishrack and planned out one for coathook and desklamp. If there had been more time…)

I also worked on images from the Conjunctions series, and this show is the first time I’ve exhibited that series. All those images come from photographs I’ve taken of people’s homes. More precisely, I go in and shoot images of the contents of certain kinds of containers — shelves, cupboards, bins, tabletops, drawers. I’m hoping to document a kind of loose, personalized organization schema. So the groupings of objects I’m shooting are organized and sensible to the person, but aren’t necessarily meant to be shown to visitors.

In my mind, this is pretty distinctly different than other series like Totems or Missed Connections, in which I’m drawing from contexts where people are explicitly crafting avatars or disposable identities for public display — via hookup ads, t-shirts, etc. I wanted to invert that here and try to delve into a different kind of identity-shaping enterprise: the internal/external dynamic couched in dealing with all the domestic objects that you see and interact with all the time. Where in other series I’m using generative or analytical procedures to abstract non-intrinsically-visible relationships from what I think of as a data set, with the Conjunctions I really wanted to work visually and formally. I wanted to deal with just the forms and spatial relationships as the data set.

So, I created two groups of work. The first is a set of photographic images that are cropped to behave formally more like dominoes than like photographs. By that I mean that I cropped them with an eye toward the possibility of moving them around and rotating them, trying to push compositional attributes to make the images more amenable to being repositioned. For me the guiding tactic here is to present an idea about the incompleteness and interpersonal transparency of the unfinishable process of that kind of domestic creative activity. It’s my strong belief that dealing with, organizing, curating, railing against, and living with your stuff is your primary and most enduring creative enterprise.

Here’s an installation shot and some of the images.

Opposite the photos are a set of five paintings that use some of those photos as reference material. I guess I should remark that I haven’t exhibited paintings in this vein before, and am pretty excited about them. Whereas I’ve for many years been working in hard-edge abstract practices, these are heavily gestural. Texturally they rely entirely on hand and brushwork, something I’ve been expunging in other series for a very long time. There are some reasons for that for this specific project. I wanted to refer to a few specific painters, people like Thomas Scheibitz and Juan Usle, that are grappling with the relevant practices that tie photography to abstraction in painting. As with all my work, trying to address exactly what abstraction is and how it works is central to these paintings. I also wanted to recapitulate the photographed objects along streamlined axes: vector, speed, friction, shape, contrast, counterpoint. And I wanted to present a suite of paintings that would bounce ideas off each other. This is an academic show after all, and I wanted to push out some new steps for my work and treat this set as a collection of formal and compositional propositions. Finally, I wanted to make the paintings hard to read in relation to the original photo. I was hoping to ride an edge of recognizability that provokes your eye into seeing those axes in slightly uncomfortable ways. “Like trying to blow apart objects with your mind” is how I’ve been attempting to describe the why and what of those paintings.

Sorry for the lousy color correction (fire the photographer!); in person you can see that while each painting is monochromatic, there are two kinds of black and a blue, as each painting is keyed to a dominant color in the apartment where the photo was taken.

I think the artist talk went pretty well, and some of the follow up questions helped me articulate things I sometimes don’t think to say up front. Yes, these are political and psychological works, as are all kinds of deconstructionist procedures. Yes, I feel that they try to engage a critical practice of examining yourself. No, I don’t think they’re ‘mathematical’ but yes I do use those tools. Yes, they’re meant to be portraits, albeit very indirectly, in the sense that I’m continuing to investigate the kinds of physical trails and remnants we leave behind as evidence of our lives and psyches. Yes, they’re personal in the sense that I feel philosophically tied to a practice of trying to find finer and more powerful tools to bust apart received practices about how identities are created and defined, and that dealing with the frisson inherent in any kind of descriptive (read: abstraction) procedure engages that.

Many thanks to Palomar, Ingram and my partner Todd.  Also would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Trevor Sigler, who helped me fabricate most of this work.