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Art & Art History

Off the Wall

Tuesday, August 21, 2001–Saturday, September 22, 2001
Gallery 400
400 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607

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Bonnie Collura, Vincent Fecteau, Danielle Gustafson-Sundell, Rachel Harrison, Jason Meadows, Melissa Pokorny, Ben Stone, and Brad Tucker

Off the Wall is a group exhibition of non-conventional contemporary sculpture. Artists Bonnie Collura (NYC), Vincent Fecteau (SF), Danielle Gustafson-Sundell (Chicago), Rachel Harrison (NYC), Jason Meadows (LA), Melissa Pokorny (SF), Ben Stone (Chicago), and Brad Tucker (Houston) incorporate multiple figurative, abstract, narrative, and fantastical references into destabilized combinations. Their works challenge the conventions of an artwork’s autonomy and contingency.

Strands of contemporary sculpture are not visibly bound to convention or form. Often infused with humorous undertones, the resilience of these sculptures results from a provocative visual presence. Resisting facile categorization, the loose grouping of such sculptural works in this exhibition is based on a shared independent spirit. Even considering a single artwork on its own terms, one discovers that it defies any suggested criteria. Of particular note is the works’ frequent (mis)use of the wall, which simultaneously mocks and underscores its dependence.

The notion of free association and the ambiguities of connotation and denotation actively operate in many of these works. Although a work seems representational, it oscillates between what is suggested and what is not. In pieces by Bonnie Collura, Jason Meadows, and Brad Tucker familiar references are made, running the gamut from baroque sculpture to a plane crash to vinyl record albums. Even when these elements are visible, however, they are hacked apart, discombobulated, and reconfigured into mutated structures and objects. In collapsing distinctions, these artists suggest that the literal and visual translations of their pieces are inseparable.

Through this process, the sculptures resist a certain preciousness. Even when scale is greatly reduced, the works in Off the Wall present a rare and sometimes disconcerting self-sufficiency. Ben Stone’s and Vincent Fecteau’s small-scale works made from cardboard, foam core, balsa wood, and collage elements abstract their figurative and narrative sources; for Stone, it is the dungeons of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, and for Fecteau, it involves architectural perspectives. In either case, the overall sensibility of the work does not result from a theatrical reification of the white cube, but from a negation of this context. Despite their diminished appearances, these “sets” assert a surprising autonomy, reminding the audience that bigger is not always better.

What is remarkable about these irreverent works is that they are neither motivated by a single source nor are they geographically or conceptually centralized. Off the Wall brings together artists from across the U.S. who appear to be tapping into similar interests, bringing forth varying aesthetic and intellectual results. One might call this resource a collective unconscious, where eccentricity is a language, and the awkward is wonderful. Rather than fact, the artists approach sculpture as a proposition and create work that revels in its dislocation.