February 28 – April 4, 2010
Reconstruction 1 brings together works by six artists: Debo Eilers, Zipora Fried, Tommy Hartung, Clifford Owens, JJ PEET and Georgia Sagri. This exhibition is the culmination of a year-and-a-half of programming. Each of the artists presented here has had a solo show at On Stellar Rays since the gallery opened, and each will exhibit a work that relates to or developed out of his or her first show. The affect is an overview of the gallery’s programming to date, a landscape defined largely by these six artists and their multivalent, interdisciplinary practices.
Although these artists work in different mediums – photography, performance, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, and video – and explore a variety of issues, they share a proclivity for performance and process-oriented work. They construct worlds containing multi-part bodies of work that relate in upon themselves; either developing mythologies generated from real world experiences, further fueling context for their work, or by establishing a physically demanding process or controlled set of performative conditions. Working within these self-imposed structures and systems, the artists are always returning to their work, reusing materials, and reconstructing objects to create the next. Like matter transformed into other matter, nothing is lost and nothing is gained, but everything that is made is embedded with a knowledge of what came before.
PEET’s work often contains evidence of his political investigations and civil protests, which the artist refers to as The Resistants. For Reconstruction 1 PEET returns to early foundations of his art-making practice, working in porcelain and stoneware to create a series of functional mugs and tumblers, on which he has inscribed icons and photo-transfers from his radio and television broadcasts, This Week’s Kernels and The TV Show. These broadcasts premiered live at On Stellar Rays weekly throughout March and April 2009, and consisted of remixed headlines and newsworthy sound bites, fictitious parallel narratives and personal anecdotes. Entrenched in these narratives, the mugs and tumblers are an extension of the broadcasts and PEET’s other forms of protest, and represent a kind of domesticated resistance to the most damning political and financial news.
EILERS is similarly pushing an ever-expanding set of personas that perform and act in the world, but for Eilers they take garish forms in the flesh and in mixed media prop-like assemblages made from colored screens, digital images, reflective panels. Eilers’ sculptures are often mobile and indeterminate, never settling into a time or place. For this show, he deconstructs one of the central sculptures from his solo show of January 2009, I’ve got $3,00 in my wallet, and reassembles the pieces to create a new work. Various reincarnations of sculptures also co-exist in a current show at 179 Canal.
HARTUNG creates alternate worlds in his studio, made of found objects and constructed parts, and brought to life using stop-motion animation. A precedent to the technical advances of his recent exhibition, Hartung presents Stay Golden Ponyboy, a short abstracted video with references to the protagonists of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Johnny and Ponyboy; Paul Robeson’s rendition of the American folk song, Oh Shenandoah; and, like his recent video The Ascent of Man, images appropriated from Jacob Bronowski’s 1973 BBC documentary of the same name, in this case footage of bathing boys in the Amazon river. The video continues Hartung’s investigation of film history as a tool for dramatic and visual storytelling
FRIED’s work represents a long-term commitment to a physically intense performative process, which through repetition reveals an infinite field of pictorial, sculptural, and even architectural possibilities. Fried’s last show at the gallery in fall 2009 introduced a new thread in the artist’s drawing practice that is continued here, a drawing that is at once wild yet controlled, austere yet compellingly sensual.
SAGRI orchestrates intense solo performances that spin off into art objects and mass-produced products in other media, connecting the representation of self with capitalist exchange and images that circulate in the media. Here she presents a third iteration of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, a text that exists in several adaptable forms. The first iteration was conceived as part of Sagri’s solo show at the gallery in May 2009, and the second at NADA Miami in December 2009. In her solo, Sagri conjured the language, structure, and physical relations of a showroom, performing six hours a day for four weeks alternating roles of jaguar, car and showgirl. Like the repetition of text here, her actions were “looped” for the entire duration of the show.
OWENS’ practice focuses on the interactions of artist and viewer. In one series, which began with his show at On Stellar Rays in October 2008, he sets up a photographic studio within which people are directed to engage with him and one another, as he prompts them to explore the underlying tensions and narratives within their particular group or community. Here he presents a series of Polaroid photographs taken from Photographs with an Audience (Chapel Hill), 2009, a closed-door performance at the University, revealing the frisson between the audience members’ individual and collective identities.
The artists in Reconstruction 1 create new work that carry with it the memory of its past. The show itself is an attempt at the same. Therefore, aside from being an assessment of these artists’ practices, Reconstruction 1 is also fundamentally introspective, a mnemonic exhibition that reflects upon the gallery’s programming, as well as the people, objects, and activities that have influenced the gallery to date. By revisiting this work, the gallery aims to make present its recent past, and reveal a commitment to its own developing history.
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