Faux Naturel

 

 

 

The Warehouse Gallery

November 9, 2006 – January 27, 2007

 

Stunning visions of larger-than-life sculpture, tragicomedic video, striking collages, and intricate prints from artists in Philadelphia, Montréal, Syracuse, and Toronto

The Warehouse Gallery opens its first exhibition of contemporary international art with Faux Naturel, on view 9 November 2006 through 27 January 2007, free to the public. Artists will attend the reception on November 16th, from 5:00–8:00pm, Th3’s citywide art night.

As citizens of the industrialized world remain unmoved to understand how our comfortable habits like commuting to work or having a cup of coffee are ruining the earth and shortening the lives of innumerable beings, the natural world shifts deeper into the category of the endangered. Life as we know it is limited. Summers grow hotter and hurricane season grows longer with our use of conveniences like air conditioning and private transportation. The incidence of forest fires and mudslides climbs in pace with our demand for cheap food and housing, which in turn lead to irresponsible farming and logging practices. Produce is artificially cheap because of tariffs that protect agribusiness. Our government facilitates the intentional wasting of crops, the bankrupting of family-run farms, and exploitative labor practices.

The group of North American artists presented in Faux Naturel is young enough to have grown up with a more informed sense about the environment, with Earth Day pre-printed on calendars and global warming existing as more than just a theory. These artists explore the territory delineated by the destruction of the natural world, with all its attendant themes. Entropy, redemption, apocalypse, the fall from grace, the temptations of commercial culture, and the relationship between science and magic all emerge as motifs in this exhibition.

  • Death and mutation have become means for betterment in the hands of Nick Lenker and Allyson Mitchell. In CloudKill, Lenker has given new life to a cat beyond its nine allotments, by casting its found body into a set of ceramic multiples. Created out of mud and reborn in the flames of a kiln, each eternally sleeping head has been resurrected for a social fear Lenker has slain. The unfortunate death of a stray has given Lenker a fresh, bolder existence. CloudKill is mounted on the wall like a collection of trophies for an underappreciated skill.
  • Rather than supporting skins from a hunter’s spree, styrofoam taxidermy forms become the seeds for a new breed of animal in Allyson Mitchell’s series of sculptures, whose individual titles combine the word “sassy” with the animal types (e.g., Sassquirrel, Sassquog). A mix of the synthetic and the natural, these creatures look like the result of nuclear waste, acid rain, and artificial sweeteners. In an interview with Kiss Machine, Mitchell explains her use of “’domestic’ materials to depict the ‘undomesticated’ feral female animal as it represents an endangered part of the human psyche.” Made of fake fur, found textile, and reptilian glass eyes, these hot pink, rare mammals casually display their nipples (rendered as felt flowers by the artist) without the shame or self-consciousness that female humans learn through social conditioning.
  • There is a sense that reality has been thwarted, that the subjects’ lives have been stilled at their most fetching moments in both Mitchell and Annie MacDonell’s works. In her Scenes from the Vanity series, MacDonell layered old posters to depict magazine-perfect silhouettes set amongst sutured fantasy gardens. These flawless bodies and blossoming branches will never decay. Yet each piece of paper the artist has incorporated attests to time’s subtle corrosion, visible in degrees of yellowing and ghostly ink bleed.
  • Abundance and redemption emerge as a theme in Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby’s video. Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure ends with unexpected scenarios of hope in dire circumstances–—specifically imminent death, malicious violence, and consuming addiction. As Sarah Milroy writes for the Globe and Mail, Duke and Battersby’s video is “anything but depressing… [it is founded in] a sense of wonder at the endearing weirdness of life and all the vulnerable, furry little creatures immersed in it (especially us).”
  • Echoing this sentiment, Andrea Vander Kooij has created delicate embroidered works reminiscent of botanical drawings, but with an eloquent twist: the images reveal the skeletal structure of the critters they depict. This simple device adds gravity to the otherwise cheery images of a squirrel nibbling a nut and a perched bird gazing skyward. They are reminders of our inevitable corporeal end. The vintage sheets Vander Kooij uses as quaint backgrounds could have draped deathbeds, but now invoke life and death simultaneously.
  • In Duke and Battersby’s sculptural work Rest for the Wicked, eighteen feet of a maple tree hovers miraculously above the floor of the gallery, serving as a bench for viewing their video. Like Vander Kooij’s embroideries, the tree speaks both about the sublimity of the natural world and about the control, containment, and demise we exercise over it. This tree is a slice of life in limbo.
  • In Alex Da Corte’s Damnation Wallpaper, bronze figures freefall into shame, their genitalia covered by censorious primroses. Based loosely on Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Da Corte’s figures being cast from the Garden of Eden tumble upside down, adorned by twenty-six colors and flocked indigo lines. This complex silkscreen print, wrapping the majority of the gallery’s west wall, is as ornate as his colossal snake pit in the center of the gallery, titled Thieves. In both installations Da Corte has made the representations of sin enticing, playful, and exquisite with dazzling colors, oversized scale, plush fabrics, and superior craftsmanship. Da Corte’s work revisits ancient Judeo-Christian questions about the relationship between innocence, human desire, and natural beauty.

Curator Astria Suparak (2006-2007)