Will Boone: No Man’s Land at Karma
January 7–February 25, 2023
Karma, New York
22 East 2nd Street
New York, NY, 10003
Images courtesy of Karma and Will Boone
No Man’s Land is a scenic exhibition that began for Will Boone with an encounter at a swap meet in 2017. Among a menagerie of figurines, toys, horror movie monsters, and busts of United States presidents and music legends, Boone found resonance with sculptures of antiquity. Medusa and Julius Caesar were swapped for Frankenstein and John F. Kennedy; dinged-up plastic and flaking enamel paint took the place of chipped marble and weathered bronze.
Across this body of work, Boone transforms relics of Americana into bronze statues. Like a model toy, Boone hand-paints each with enamel paint, producing a brushy and vibrant surface. Amidst cacti and aloes, a tiger and a barking dog have a standoff at the gallery’s center. A rabbit leaps across a skull and an eagle hangs from the ceiling. A vulture perches on a rock, surveying bones. Several works are deliberately paired together, forming tableaus: a rat and a ribcage, an eagle and a bat, a spider’s web amidst barren branches, a cactus sprouts from a foot. A sculpture hall sourced from the desert of American culture, the exhibition marks the first time this body of work will be shown in its entirety.
For Boone, who has returned to live and work in his hometown of Houston, the visual language of Texas is foundational. Boone’s bronze sculptures are made in a foundry which also produces roadside attractions, located in the small town of Bastrop, which is also home to a gas station barbecue joint featured in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. To Donald Judd, Texas famously offered a featureless landscape, an empty space that harmonized with his sculptural practice. In contrast, for Boone, Texas is defined by its features—cultural artifacts, specificities, and oddities, exemplified in the strange monuments through which small towns assert themselves against the desert.
Boone’s sculptures stand in a playful arrangement, like an abandoned movie set. Their bronze construction guarantees their permanence, through which Boone unites the vastness of time with the vastness of the desert. There, we find his sculptures, lingering in the inexorable unknown that is No Man’s Land.