Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Gross" by Chris Lin

Introducing…l-i-p’s hot new guest blogger series! The first of our gloggers is Chris Lin. A glue-gun slingin’ cardboard crafter, ukulele pickin’ song writer, word-player and boy (gasp!), he is a connoisseur of material engagement. From behind-the-scenes at Contemporary Art Workshop, he brings us his perspective.

The janitor used to come every two weeks. One day he left a note on my desk to tell me that one of the artworks is dripping red juice. The piece was Matt Davis’ multimedia photo collage, and the red juice comes from the chewed sugar-free gums which adhere to the surface of the photo. At some point there are flies stuck to it; it is summer after all.

“Isn’t this the grossest thing you’ve ever seen?”
~Trick-or-treat girl

Three months later, Matt shows here again, this time his solo show. The anchor piece was an installation entitled “Inheritance”, which is made of sugar-free candy, foam, sunflower seed shells, cat litter, fish oil pills, nylon strap, band-aids, super balls, toilet paper, and body hair mounted on a photograph of what appears to be a vagina or a very ripe fig, mounted on clumsily cut aluminum. The piece embodies danger and anxiety, and with its tangling foam tentacles, sharp edges and near-unidentifiable objects affixed onto it, it’s easy to overlook the grotesque imagery in the photograph.

“Is this thing archival?”

Boss was born in the Depression era. She grew up to love art as much as life. To her, a piece of art is as important as a pair of wool socks or a heavy winter coat. She got married to Jack who builds chrome sculptures that are strong enough to brave the Chicago winter. Jack founded CAW with a mission to showcase young emerging artists with new ideas. It was the 1950s.

Nowadays, artists are finding new materials to use in artworks and it’s still a new concept for most of the art-viewing public. During the opening, one of the guests brought up the Unmonumental exhibition in the New Museum in New York and how it was target to outrage by many museum-goers because of its slacker aesthetic and unserious concepts. But even then, such style is widely accepted in the recently-artschool-grad circle. This is what they teach in school? What’s there to teach? How to mix epoxies and glue a bunch of shit together?

I’m biased, since I glue shit together in my own work, too. I have to say that this new aesthetic is totally relevant to our time. This is the era when consumer items define our lives and relativity is a mainstream belief. Things don’t just serve the purpose of being useful, they suggest a narrative to our identity. But it suggests a vague identity, more mystery -- a more fitting definition of personality. The fact that the materials are real doesn’t help make reading easier, but it provides a more full and open experience. Nothing else is clear-cut, so why should the art be?

Matt’s work is confounding not only in its material but also in its imagery. It’s gross, it’s beautiful, it’s overwhelming, it’s shoddy-looking, it’s lively. The red juice is absent from “Inheritance”, but the complexity of the materials guarantees a different reading each time. It’s aliiiiiiiive.

Matt Davis's show The End is the last for the historic alternative space CAW. Go see it before it closes January 23.

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