Materiality

Last night I went to First Friday in Philadelphia, the first First Friday of the year! It had snowed and was the coldest it’s been since like 1918 so first of all I’m quite impressed by motivation to even venture out but my friends would motivate if I would and we decided to do this. A sip of left over new year’s apple cider rum sealed the deal.

Before leaving, I taped and spackled a few more cracks in the wall of my soon to be new studio space in the back bedroom of the house. This is important because the tape is sticky on one side and knitted together and is kind of a cool surface. It’s interesting how the spackling compound seeps into the tape grid and the crack disappears. I’m very excited about these materials though I wonder about their toxicity. It’s really endlessly fascinating to me how a room looks so much better without the cracks. The more cracks you fill, the more cracks that you didn’t notice begin to appear.

Why is this relevant you maybe wondering? At first Friday it was hard to ignore the use of materials. Some works were made out of concrete in an exhibition called Impossible Machines, some of which even moved to my surprise. It is always fun to chat to the artists, in this case Benjamin White, too about their work even if it’s a bit scary (but that’s a topic for a different blog entry)

My favorite works were at Marginal Utility. I felt the “I like this”. From what I could observe, they were made from styrofoam blocks and sheets broken and assembled and painted. And another material, which my friend who was with me says I will love to use for filling in cracks that cause leaks around the house and for keeping mice out, a material I have long wondered about for making abstract expression style sculptures of shapes bringing that one percent imagination of other worldly images to life, spray foam, and it is one I have successfully avoided because of its toxicity.  I’m pretty certain my understanding of the work is probably miles away from the artist’s intention, which I didn’t read yet. First I will explain what I saw and imagined happening. Some of the sculptures looked like pretend concrete and this was interesting after just seeing the impossible machine sculptures in the previous gallery that were made of actual concrete. I love artists using these construction materials to make work. It is awesome. And now that I have a home even more meaningful to me. I want to spray foam sculptures on to my walls like relief paintings of the past and make these square rooms turn into other worldly spaces. But will it be like making new cracks? Or will the lofty dream of coming home to a living art installation of the 1% imagination be realized? For now, we spackle the way you are supposed to and look at First Friday art exhibitions for those escapes and moments of other worldliness. I would definitely be able to live quite happily with several of the sculptures that were at Marginal Utility’s Alexi Kukuljevic’s ‘Don’t Be a Dreamer Mr. Me‘ (I will read this soon).

Why I liked them? The shapes were messy, intricate and assembled in a way that had organization and places for the eye to move over details of rough terrains. There were peaks of color emerging in blues and light pinks that reminded me of hints of the earth and nature trying to emerge from these synthetic prefab forms. They were fake concrete and that’s just funny after looking at real concrete (which were also funny because they don’t really work as machines). My favorite piece was the little 1 foot black square hung high up on a wall in the back of the gallery. I noticed it last and then as I turned to leave then I saw other sculptures not on the ground, or the floor but off the pillars and hanging from the ceiling. I was beginning to feel immersed in this foam landscape, while simultaneously finding refuge in the thoughts of deep space dark matter and supernovas stimulated by the shape of a flat black square. Taking in the textures and colors, feeling so removed from nature in a warehouse concrete cube, for better or worse, I found my art moment.

Wow and now after writing that previous paragraph, I read Chip Shwartz’s review on the Knights Foundation site. It’s funnier that I think the sculptures are making the imagination or dream like world come to life while the show is called “Don’t be a Dreamer Mr. Me” (Mr. Mom? what??)  This is just getting too weird. I will end it this segment with two thoughts

Image that made me appreciate my tape and spackling: Some pressed patterns and textures in a wall piece by Alexi Kukuljevic. Photo by Chip Schwartz.

and the other, I had a mediocre experience at a Machete Group meeting once back in like 2009 and was left with a bad taste in reference to how it was run (they seemed to cut off the women who spoke at the meeting and ran it at a phd level for a nonphd audience) and despite this experience, I “liked” Alex Kukuljevic’s art work.

and bouncing back to ground…

my friends all wear size 6 shoe like me!

and over to Practice Gallery and into performance art with “Objects for Dance”
OBJECTS – Blaine Siegel DANCE – Jil Stifel with Maree ReMalia and objects and kinetic sculpture and interactions. this is too hard to talk about! How to describe a performative gesture and my experience! It was awkward? It was fun? I could have stayed longer? I wish I didn’t have a beer in my hand and heavy coat on so I could have played longer? I was literally roped in to the performance (damn I am enjoying art humor puns, are you with me??) so what I mean is there were two performance artists and a three tiered rope made of fabrics pieced together, with loops on each of the three ends and the other end coming together from a center point. The two performers, each with a loop around them, take the third loop to lasso another third performer in. Once in, the artists say things like switch and sort of change movements with the loops and keep moving slowly-ish, poised, intentional. I had no idea what i was doing, it was totally destabilizing and made me feel clumsy and probably embarrassing to even share this on a blog if you are still reading, but yet I found that all to be super fun, was surprisingly willing to take the risk and engage and so glad I participated. So yeah, bravo! Sometimes it’s only through the experience of the art that you start to understand what is happening and its ability to take on meaning.

Questions about the materiality of the concrete, styrofoam, human body, and the brunch that never happened and daily life of creating a livable home resonate as we continue to “work on the house” today.