The group exhibition Bricolage at Causey Contemporary offers a provocative look at the ways in which notions of identity are complicated in society and culture.
The exhibition’s title, Bricolage, is inspired by the art term of the same name defined as “the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of available things.” Each artist on view has created work that uses processes associated with bricolage. In doing so, they are addressing the issue of identity as a construction. It is the artist’s choice of materials, however, that work to reveal just how multifaceted the concept of identity is today.
At the center of the gallery’s main floor are three freestanding assemblages titled Specimens by Steve Dobbin. Each is constructed from a found ring stand, metal rod, photo transfer on lead, and glass vial. The vials hold photograph samples – a man, broken glasses, and a red figure like those on crosswalk signs, but this one has a broken arm and leg. Each has been deemed different because they do not meet society’s standards of norm.
From a distance, Greg Haberny’s Matchbox IV looks like one of those old matchboxes with the striking strip on its side. Upon closer look, the representational image dissipates into the disparate materials used to create it – red and black crayons melted onto a found painting covered with gaffer tape and paper. The artist seems to be exploring how constructed identity changes under varying perceptions.
In her work, The Yellow King, Michel Demanche combines drawing, rice paper, Xerox and digital transfer, and string. As viewers it appears that we are looking at the top of a desk strewn with random objects from one’s life – a box of matches, house, feather, seashell, wooden artist’s model, and torn book pages. String connects the objects, suggesting the meaningful relationship that they have with their owner.
Photographer Gerald Mocarsky stages dramatic images that riff famous photographs and paintings, replacing the central figures with transgender men. His And Other Beautiful Things: The Liberation of Shame presents a woman dressed in a handmade feather dress. Standing against a blue background, she is illuminated by a dramatic spotlight like those used in theater productions. She stares straight at the viewer, thwarting any sense of the male gaze that has come to dominate images of this nature throughout art history.
John David O’Brian draws from physical environments around him and alters them, raising questions about place, time, and how we relate to the world around us. In his Sottopassagio (Underpass) series, he combines two very different environments. A ghostly rendering depicting a tunnel of refined design is superimposed on a black and white photograph of a highway underpass. Together, they show a constructed world of contrasts – past vs. present, old vs. new, beauty to behold vs. practicality.
Nick Cash also deals with how we perceive our environments. For his work Vacancies, he has collaged a building structure of images from magazines dated to the 1980s. A sign reads, “Vacancies, apply within.” Looking completely out of place in its setting, the building is set against a snowy mountain background.
The exhibition continues on the gallery’s lower level space. The first work to come into view is Self Portrait of You by Benjamin Bertocci. It presents a photograph printed on canvas of a hyena devouring its prey. Vultures are in the background. The canvas has been slashed to reveal eyes and a mouth, painted by Bertocci in a photorealistic style. The person is smiling, completely oblivious to the carnage taking place around them. We are left to ponder how this ‘head in the sand’ view manifests in our own lives.
In his work GQ Spot, Kevin Bourgeois considers how mass media images of women are destructive to identity. A psychedelic collage presents images of four women, which are either cut out from fashion magazines or part of the underlying record jacket. A woman’s eyes appear to have been cut out, her sense of sight taken from her. While another looks seductively out from the picture, making direct contact with the viewer.
A cutout of a white void dominates Erik Foss’ They Grow Up Fast. The blank space is surrounded by snippets of flowers, cartoon strips, and women’s bodies in lingerie taken from magazines like Maxim and Playboy. The juxtaposition of images draws attention to the fact that these generic notions of female selfhood result from cultural constructions.
Bricolage raises many issues regarding how our sense of identity is negotiated under various societal pressures regarding standards of beauty, gender, sexuality, and individualism. Environment and situation are influential factors as well. We are left to wonder if it is possible to reclaim any sense of self in a world that constantly wants to take it from us.
Bricolage is on view at Causey Contemporary through August 21, 2016.