Domestic Abstraction

May 3rd - June 8th, 2019

Featured artists: Joseph Coniff, Amber Cobb, Joshua Ware, Katie Wilker, Marsha Mack, Laine Godsey.

“Abstraction”, as a term, has taken on an unintended baggage somewhere in the course of its development. “Abstraction”, as in that stuff you make when you cannot paint. The kind of stuff someone’s kid could make. But consider: why would anyone criticize an art object on the basis of his or her child’s capacity to unselfconsciously produce a comparable aesthetic? People have a tendency to love their kids, so isn’t it a bit strange to shame by way of this comparison? Parents tend to take Crayola-smeared pieces of printer paper and stick them to the fridge, where they are organized with so many other objects that refer back to home and hearth. A child’s simple exclamation of pride: “I made this!”, is an uncommon target of discouragement. Yet of course the objects sticking to the walls of an art gallery are made by adults, typically strangers, and they have prices. That, and an art gallery isn’t a home, but a business.

Let’s be honest. The anger one feels at a piece of abstract art is the misdirected anger one feels at one’s own job. It’s the anger one feels for having to work a frustrating nine to five, or, considering the increasing demand that regularly employed individuals work constant overtime, a frustrating seven to six. It’s the anger of having to wait two weeks or a month for the one day when it all feels like it’s worth it. And it is worth it when you get back to your home; the home you earned through all the sacrifice, and sit on your couch. To see a working-age stranger ask for more money than you earn in a week for something your child could have done must be a way of diminishing all the sacrifice, right? This is an anger generated by the fact that the object does not exist for the purpose of celebrating work for work’s sake. It doesn’t look difficult enough. The comparison to one’s own child indicates the kind of life a parent is anticipating for his or her offspring: hard.

As a generation of people are settling into an environment constructed out of the consequences of downward mobility, the reality is that home ownership isn’t as much of an option as it used to be. Most of the artists here presented absolutely do have that day job, and they aren’t ensured the same satisfaction of seeing the hard work pay off. And if that sculpture doesn’t sell, it will probably find its ultimate home in the apartment of the artist. How, then, does one anticipate living with these objects? Do their subtle references to or outright repurposing of wall paper, pillows, and mattresses express a desire to see home reflected in the object? Or is it that the artists are distilling into objective form the anticipation a home has of its occupant? A home’s dimensions and its objects anticipate our bodies, its forms lend themselves to our comfort, and its decorum expresses our identities.

When one surrenders to the need to visit a Home Depot, one can break with the appeals of their marketing and the trends promoted by HGTV and find within the materials new techniques  whereby occupation can be explored. Abstraction is, simply, a way of breaking things down into its essential components. There is nothing easy, difficult, beautiful, ugly, interesting, or boring about abstraction. Abstraction doesn’t mean anything. It is a tool all of us, artist and non-artist alike, use to navigate our environments. Within the flexibility and utility of abstraction, one is able to develop a strategy.

When a recent graduate moves into his or her first apartment, he or she is confronted with the task of furnishing. The enthusiasm of one’s expectations mingle with what is, for most, a limitation of resources, resulting in unique strategies of occupation. What is a cinder-block besides an industrial material? What else is a shipping crate? These abstract questions might lead to the breakthrough one needs in order to finally own a table. Though it might seem lazy to some, that table will express a value besides work. It will express resilience. Though simply an assemblage passing as furniture, the table is simultaneously the byproduct of a manifesto, no longer about a drawing, but about a reclamation of the concept of home, that reads as follows:

“I made this.”

Using Format