Putting Things Together
Closed May 12
by Kyle Schlesinger
Few people have the imagination for reality.
SOFA’s two-person exhibition featuring Max Warsh’s pictures and Vanesa Zendejas’ sculptures in a repurposed home on Austin’s East Side was the most well-attended SOFA event to date. This may be attributed to the integrity of the work itself, as well as the momentum generated by its affiliation with the Fusebox Festival, but there’s a third element to consider: Katie Geha, SOFA’s curator, usually installs the work with the artist in her apartment. While maintaining the intimacy of SOFA’s usual domestic setting, with gallery goers gravitating towards the kitchen and living room, the Rosewood location made public access more viable than an apartment gallery could ever be, offering the sense of scale and collaboration between curator and artist SOFA enthusiasts have come to expect.
Three of Zendejas’ sculptures (or ‘objects’ as she calls them) were installed in the living and dining rooms, surrounded by six images by Warsh, who came in from New York for the exhibition . Two of Zendejas’ sculptures were positioned on pedestals, and the other, the largest of the three, was positioned directly on the floor. I’ve always had a hunch that somewhere, deep in the OED, there’s an etymological relationship between the German ‘bild’ (‘picture’ or ‘model’) and ‘builder’ (one who makes things). This word comes up a lot in the Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus when Ludwig Wittgenstein articulates his ‘picture theory,’ a way of thinking about the relationship between language and images and the reality they represent. One can say, ‘the book is on the table,’ and point to a series of relationships that do, or do not, exist in the world, offering a picture of reality, or what Wittgenstein called, Form der Abbildung. In a proposition like this, the picture is always more than the sum of its parts: the book and the table can both exist in and outside of logical space, but the relationship between the two is what makes the proposition ‘true’ or ‘not true.’ But what happens when pictures of reality do things that reality can’t? This is the question that brings Warsh’s photographic collages and Zendejas’ sculptures into dialogue with one another.
Warsh’s collages are primarily made from digital photographs of façades taken by the artist. It is no surprise he has a background in architecture, and that for him, the history behind a building’s face suggests a lot about his immediate environment, the neighborhood and time. Patterns, materials and aesthetics of the urban (and occasionally rural) footpaths he knows are more than ornament or decoration, they are the juxtaposition of times and places, things and ideas, as previously imagined. And yet, the insistence on surface and the ever crucial edge in art and architecture is highly suggestive, sometimes astonishing in its ordinariness. The coexistence of periods and styles is fascinating in any city, and the combination of textures, colors and pattern is revealing. Typically working with three photographs at a time, the smooth forms result in clean, clutter-free, organic compositions where serendipitous intersections, as observed in the large, multi-panel, Jersey Barrier, take shape. In this relentlessly mediated world, it might be natural to assume that the pictures were created using image editing software, such as Photoshop, but curiously, the computer plays no role in the production of these images. The combination of scissors, paper and glue is not unlike the old adage that one, plus one, plus one, does not equal three. Warsh is a builder, one who puts things together, who allows us to ‘picture facts to ourselves.’
Kyle Schlesinger is a poet who writes and lectures on typography and artists’ books. His recent books of poetry include: Commonplace (Cuneiform, 2011); Bad Words to the Radio and Other Poems (Least Weasel, 2011); What You Will (NewLightsPress, 2011); Picture Day (Electio Editions, 2012); and Parts of Speech (Chax Press, 2012). He is proprietor of Cuneiform Press and co-director of the Graduate Program in Publishing at UHV.