yay! l-i-p is back! glad you had a book/art-filled weekend! i had some fun as well, and wanted to rave about one of my new fave artists. ;)
the show: Work Site
the artists: Chris Lin and Ben Brandt
the gallery: Estudiotres
There are a few key ingredients that go into making a good country song.
1. Structure: some sort of underlying form or loose system that holds it all together.
2. Familiarity: if the strange or absurd disrupts, often what we already know comforts.
3. Character: the personal, based on biography yet universalized (generalized) to relate on a larger scale.
4. Drama: exaggeration and elevation of everyday life--in an effort to make meaning, heighten, and slow those fast gone moments.
5. Heart: the sincerity and wisdom that only comes from someone who has truly hurt, lost, or failed.
And in this process, the writer finds purpose and release, romantically formalizing what might otherwise be a selfish tantrum.
This show is a good country song.
Lin and Brandt are both dealing with structure. More than the obvious architectural references, their work points to underlying surfaces, supports, and modular rhythm. The type of rectilinear plague we suffer daily (have you noticed?---everything is rectangle! ah!). The salvation comes in the imperfection of the system. The freedom lies in the cracks, the play is in the fissure. Brandt's scaffolds teeter with "almost balance", variable-sized canvases cluster together like loose communities or aerial shots of irregular plots of farmland. Lin's tenement blocks don't always match up, the chicken-wire foundation is exposed, and a city below is revealed.
An anthropological study would examine the layers, searching for clues of human life, the hand, the personal. In fact, the singular strange thing about this work is the feeling of people-less-ness. Talking to Lin about his work, he confided that several blocks are loosely based on places in Chicago where memory turned happy moments of the past into sad remembrances. His blues got to work, tediously constructing nondescript building after the next (he even lost sight of which was which soon after he made them). Tenements resting tenuously on a mountain of gray. The same gray of Brandt's textures. The same gray of the gallery utility doors. The city from the past is buried beneath, forgotten, and already purged.
This is a more serious play, wit is slight, less obvious. Yet there is humor in between. The sad homogeneity of the buildings (also goes for Brandt's surfaces) direct you to the "wonky" by contrast--holes, minute color details, dramatic peaks and valleys, scale, the tipping of blocks to extreme angles! They might just slide right off! Hee. Brandt jests, too, with a silly "walnut tongue" or tangled ball of string (noodles? worms? intestines?) protruding from the conservative tans, creams, browns, and grays (the colors of Eddie Bauer or maybe more poignantly, the working class uniform).
Both artists' work seem very much about material (low and high) and "boyness." Lin really knows his material. He should, he's been using it since he was little. It reminds me of one of my favorite students from Tally. Remember Jim Dolson, his cardboard space equipment, science experiments in the playground, and mission to the moon? Cardboard...it lacks pretension. There is a curious innocence in the meanderings of a 9-year-old boy with constructs, an erector set, Lego's or even just household objects. Brandt's work carries that mentality as well. Although his schooling is obvious, inscribing his name in every painting, he leaves a mark of naivete.
The "work site" is a place of vulnerability, unfinished thoughts and plans. Process and production. Surface and support. Creation from destruction (dramatic, I know, but that's history, man!). And maybe a few mountains out of molehills.
The show will be up through Dec. 18---go see it! details---http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=36260886609