Bright, natural, clean light fills the pristine, white room. A bed with a white duvet is nestled in the back, the kitchenette to the left, a lovely tree revealed in the window above the sink. Arranged around the space are several large sculptures. A quiet noise emanates from the closet, where a minimalist film dimly lights the shoes and books on a shelf there, the music painting the scene all around, and aptly so: ‘your motion says you are in the mood’ is the inaugural exhibition of Christopher Fullemann’s new sculpture at n/a, inspired by Arthur Russell; The closet installation is an accompaniment piece by the gallery director and curator Nicholas Andre Sung features music and imagery of Arthur Russell. Sung and Füllemann maintained a strong curator/artist interchange in the development of the work, which is tantamount to the generous nature of the art making here.
Sung and Füllemann’s symbiotic, fun and respectful relationship dismembers the binaries of previously associated rigid distinctions between curators/art historians and artists/history makers. This is not new, indeed it is more and more a common practice – perhaps a sign of the radical actions of masters of all, a step child of DIY, a desire for more – a need to get under each other’s skin and into each other’s minds, creating a cohesive playing field for discussion and connections, making the work that much stronger. That strength of the work is nuanced and pushes several binaries beyond the curator/artist relationship and brings them to the fore: home/gallery; masculine/feminine; soft/hard; precious/provisional; formal/playful; classical/avant-garde; permanence/fleeting; touchable/repulsive. The space, the work, the curator and the artist collide.
This collision is bold, but not violent – the various materials arranged in quiet vignettes. By quiet I mean that the work is here, waiting for viewers to partake or participate, but very static and congealed. Hard, straight legs and table-like surfaces have been painted with youthful colors and bumpy textures that ground the work and the soft materials are coated in lacquer to freeze the soft configurations making them solids. Also adding to the quiet tone of the work are live plants growing out of two of the sculptures. The formal (and maybe tiring) discourse of the function of art is made a mockery by lightening the loaded conversation with these endearing plants. The plants propose a profound curiosity as living things which must be maintained, watered and cared for, giving the sculpture a purpose beyond their initial and lasting intention as art objects merely to be admired.
A wispy palm tree sprays out of the top of a rectangular vessel with gradating shades of lavender fading to a pale tint over plaster smears. The rectangle is held high by a two-legged base decorated with hexagonal tiles on grey grout – thick, orange chain swags between the legs of the base like giant, industrial bling. It is both glamorous and awkward and I can’t take my eyes off of it, actually. Nearby, a hollow staircase laden with lacquered cloth dominates the room. On the top plank of the stair-case formation is a lovely and delicate Maidenhair fern sprouting out of a substantial, sumptuous and equally repulsive pile of what appears to be clay painted chocolate brown. Jutting from the top of the pile is a bright aqua long and skinny balloon commonly used for making balloon animals. A strange and porous protruding animalesque stick-like curving shape creeps up and tickles the tip of the balloon like an imaginary creature. It seems like an innocent read on the piece, but an alternate interpretation could be much more corporeal and sexual since the piece is also blatantly phallic, the plant now reduced to a pun, albeit a very beautiful one. Very close to it is another dominating sculpture which influences and suggests sexual, if not at least bodily innuendo.
Two bright aqua benches are situated at a 90 degree angle. Visitors are allowed to sit on the benches but there is only room for one person on each side and if you are to sit here, you are just a bit too far apart to touch each other. In the center of the piece is a very large swath of industrial carpet padding, painted electric orange and held on by industrial clips. From a distance, the piece has a life of its own, the benches splayed as if legs, the center drapery falling like a dress or a long t-shirt. The representation is seductive despite being non-objective. Yet, the participatory nature of the piece immediately makes it something for the body to physically engage with, creating a playful confusion that questioning the limitations or boundaries of touch. Similarly, across the way is another large sculpture with a small bench that visitors are allowed to sit on.
This bench has wheels, but the distance that the bench can be moved is hindered by a large ladder-shaped partition intersecting it. This is the most decadent of all the works in the exhibition. Sheer fabric that has been dipped in lacquer is slopped onto the rungs of the ladder – the weight of the liquid still evident. Temporality becomes fixed and the fabric is sealed for all time in this position now that it is dry, even though the high gloss finish makes it appear wet still. Purple paint adds another wet layer that is extremely tempting and it is difficult to suppress the desire to touch it and risk getting paint on fingertips. I am reminded of the song by Arthur Russell that also the title of the exhibition.
A line from the song goes: “Your motion says you’re in the mood, but what you want is far away.” This work is magnetic, and at the same time it denies us the luxuries and enticements that it parades before us. They are one big tease, like a crush who knows it. And like all crushes, it is an ache that we enjoy.
The exhibition closes on July 6th with a late afternoon musical performance featuring Karl Cronin, Teddy Rankin-Parker, Daniel Pearce, and Peter Hernandez at 5pm followed by a closing reception. Previous performances included poetry by Kevin Killian and Paul Ebenkamp, vogue dancer Jocquese Whitfield and opera performed by Breanna Elyce Sinclaire with pianist Derek Tam.
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-Contributed by Leora Lutz