“Shop” is a collection of wooden and aluminum sculptures, many based on themes of transportation. Pontus Willfors has a knack for carefully crafting recognizable objects — cars, bicycles and other utilitarian objects. The highlights in this exhibition include “Wheelchair,” “The Falcon” and “Bicycle,” which is a flattened representation of a streamlined bike. The stunning “Wheelchair” sports branches that stem from the back, arms and wheels of a handmade wooden wheelchair. Willfors is interested in the transformation of everyday objects into lyrical sculptures that join and celebrate natural and man-made forms (Denk Gallery, Downtown).
In his 1986 book Inside the White Cube based on a 1976 series of Artforum essays, artist and writer Brian O’Doherty examined the pristine white gallery space as the required context and condition for appreciating contemporary art. He wrote of such spaces, “The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white… The purpose of such a setting is not unlike the purpose of religious buildings.”  As with congregants in any religious space, once within the gallery a special group shares its solidarity with art world values. The gleaming White Cube frames the artwork and confers on it an aura of being an enduring masterpiece. It has been essential for the reception, success and enshrinement of Modernist and contemporary art. In photographs of gallery installations, anything other than art, including human viewers, had to be eliminated to maintain the sanctity of such a space and its devotion to pure aesthetics.
There is something about the deadpan expression on Buster Keaton’s face that belies the physicality and poetry of his comedy. It is the balance of humor and melancholy that gives his work its poignant tension. René Magritte similarly uses the banal neutrality and clarity of a sign painter’s style to render his seemingly simple inversions of logic that amplifies the impact of the discontinuity within his images. In Jeff Colson’s work, he takes the objects of the everyday world – an old patched inner tube, a desk piled impossibly high with stacks of paper, a storage facilities roll-up door stuffed floor to ceiling with the bric-a-brac of the pedestrian world – suitcases, lawn furniture, an old tire, a garden hose, a ping pong table – and makes sculptures, all hand made, carved in wood or cast in other material and painted to make approximations of the original using the ‘wobbly logic’ of memory. It is the space between the original and the facsimile where the entropy of memory begins to breakdown the paradigm. We at first accept wholesale that these are recycled objects, found objects reassembled into installations, then as we approach closer the threshold of perception shifts and we can see that these are handmade replica of the originals, the mind slowly deconstructs the perceived gestalt.
It Passes like a Thought
Lynn Aldrich, Juan Fontanive, Ian Ingram, Richard Ross, Susan Silton, Victoria Vesna, and Anne Walsh
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 3, 2018, 2-5pm
On view through: Saturday, May 26, 2018
Holiday Closures: March 26-April 1, 2018
Curated by David Familian
When an individual [bird] is seen gliding through the woods and close to the observer, it passes like a thought... trying to see it again, the eye searches in vain; the bird is gone. –– John James Audubon
Perhaps there is no better metaphor for the fleeting world around us than birds. Before we had various technologies and methods to capture birds visually or to record their song, we only had our memories and our imaginations to represent their ephemeral presence. Considering that there are more than 9,000 avian species, it is not surprising that many ornithologists, linguists, musicologists, and countless amateurs spend their lives watching and listening to birds.
It Passes like a Thought includes seven contemporary artists who explore our obsessions with birds through various media. Some artists in this exhibition engage with birdsong, or more specifically, how we mimic or manipulate their sounds—looking for a response or a connection by creating a feedback loop with nature. Other artists are more interested in the visual diversity of birds, as well as how they are archived, classified, and preserved.
The California artist, Pontus Willfors, takes his car nostalgia to the next level with this project. He has recreated the profile of his Ford Falcon in hardwood, whittling it down slowly from a block of wood.
“What is behind me and what is in front of me continuously overlap,” Los Angeles-based artist Augusta Wood tells me, gathering in one beautiful phrase her thoughts on life, experience, and, more specifically, her creative process. Her book, I have only what I remember, combines photography with memory, existence with architecture, and light with time to create what she calls “a more complete image.” This book is composed of works created in her grandparents’ now vacant 1955 modernist New York home, which feature projections of family photographs hauntingly layered over the now desolate home in which the memories were made.
Creation, destruction, renewal; threat, protection, materialism; reality, illusion, and all manner of Utopias (including the ironic) are the order of the day with three concurrent solo shows on view at DENK. The artists don’t work together, but this curated trio is just a salient coincidence; in all of the best possible ways, these installations highlight and augment certain resonant facets in each artist’s practice creating crosscurrents that elevate the whole.