Alex Chaves, Clock 2 (still from Rebecca 1940), 2021 Oil on linen 24 x 30 in (61 x 76.2 cm)
The artists in Passages take cultural recycling as a starting point for art making in these doom-stricken times. Cultural detritus, over-accessibility and crowding means the artists in this show exhibit a tenacity in defiance of a world that certainly doesn’t need another object. They reflect the pathological world they inherit. Throughout Passages clocks tick, countdowns are set, and tension builds. In Sandy Williams IV’s video Endurance VI we witness a strongman in a Budweiser American flag tank top steady a teacup over his head to the point of exhaustion in the American history section of a library. Sweat drips down his body as he holds the cup above his head for over 30 minutes, toward the end of the performance he groans, and the cup begins to rattle. His failure to continue marks the video’s conclusion. With the performer’s strain in the context of institutionalized history, Williams IV suggests the precarity of upholding focal points of American idealism - masculinity, corporatism, whiteness, text booked history. Alex Chaves’s clock paintings are taken from Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) and the set of the haunted Manderley. Hitchcock used these shadowy clocks to emphasize the ominous unraveling of the second Mrs. de Winter as she uncovers the mystery of the drowned first wife, Rebecca. The paintings are artifacts, arrested in a moment (unlike real clocks), they pay homage to the authority and command of time upon our lives and both the profundity and unease that grants each moment. Tyree Guyton’s Man Of Steel (which the artist scrawled “Time” across) stands proudly as a nail punctures his groin - reflective of a retreating phallocracy? Indeed, there’s a certain feminization world in decline and our redacted male archetypes. Time may not be on our side. Bradley Kronz’s video Chromatic plunges us into the nebula of pop appropriation as strange assemblages of recent movies and television are interspersed in galactic renderings based on David Hockney’s popularized photo effect. Strange, fractionalized times indeed – with internet proliferation and streaming video, the media has become an infinite abyss of sci-fi absurdity. Sam Anderson’s sensitive sculptures speak to this peculiar situation, her figurines of humans and animals allegorize arresting, intimate moments of reckoning like self and other and the organic and the industrial. Architectural motifs like gates, cages, and platforms frame the encounters of the figurines. Robert Bittenbender’s collage pieces similarly use the remnants of contemporary material culture with frenetic energy packed into their intricate constructions. Bittenbender’s sculptures are reminiscent of medieval shrines with delicately woven rubble in lieu of gilded religious icons. Like Anderson, Bittenbender uses found objects to construct new meaning with the material excess of our globalized, overproduced, postindustrial world. Kronz’s paintings are almost unpainted, unframed, and reframed, backsided and surprising in their un-subject matter. Maybe they are the first trompe l'oeils of the dumpster fire of cultural meaning. Justin Lieberman’s Driver creates a similar humbling, cryptic, comedic effect. The sculpture involves a Pikachu doll wearing a traffic cone as a dunce cap, which the artist has tagged with a Sharpie question mark. This may speak to where we are: Pokemon, time, discarded objects, pop cultural and literary figures, ticking clocks. It's an alphabet soup of quizzical and imminent collapse. The failure of previous structures has created room for new ones to take shape, this is something that the exhibition takes up as its central pulse. The seven artists in Passages make do with the ruins of a crumbling world, offering something new in the face of congested fatality.