People say haste makes waste, but so does everything else. Everything we use to clothe, feed, shelter, fuel and entertain us accumulates into junk of no value – except in the natural world. There, it evolves into a form better suited to its time, and the process can begin again.
In his first solo exhibition with Andrew Edlin Gallery, Chris Doyle makes this cycle of consumption and transformation the subject of Waste_Generation, a title that describes both an action and an identity. The hand-drawn digital animation that is the centerpiece of the show is the second in an series of five that Doyle has based on The Course of Empire by the 19th-century, Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole.
With the first video, Apocalypse Management (a 2009 commission from MASS MoCA), Doyle took on Cole’s penultimate The Destruction of Empire. It depicts the sack of a city lying in the path of an oncoming storm. The Doyle version has another duality: people struggling to cope with their grief in the aftermath of a disaster that could have been caused either by war or an earthquake, perhaps both. To create Waste_Generation, Doyle worked from Desolation, the picture of a civilization in ruins that concludes Cole’s masterwork. Waste_Generation shows a world dependent on technology that has also used it up.
In it a dump site for outmoded tools of production, such as computers and oil drills, dissolves into a paper mill whose smokestack generates paper money. The currency condenses into the pulsating plant life of a jungle, where falling trees shape themselves into a bleak factory silhouette that belches pastel clouds. Black crows fly out of them, only to divide and metastasize into the replicating patterns of Victorian wallpaper and oriental rugs. The rugs frame a suburban development of homes with Islamic domes, as seen in on TV in a flash that brings the cycle back to its beginning.
For the Brooklyn-based Doyle, the piece emerged in the emotional aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. But it is not meant to be a save-the-planet broadside or a political statement, more a coming-to-grips with technology that threatens to consume us while extending our physical limits. With a soundscape by Doyle’s longtime collaborator, Joe Arcidiacono, Waste_Generation is a deft, finely detailed narrative that contains the transactions of life in a world to which everything, be it human or material, must adapt, and seek beauty in symmetry and meaning in rational design.
“First, I wanted to explore the way ornament has been used throughout history, and across civilizations, as a cultural representation of nature,” Doyle says of the piece. “Secondly, while the generation of waste is basically destructive, it serves a tremendous creative urge that is ultimately, and gloriously, the essence of being human.”
The exhibition also includes three lightboxes of drawings Doyle made with the video, as well as wallpaper printed with thirty images of dollar-size patterns from the animation.
Chris Doyle was born in Easton, Pennsylvania and educated at Boston College and at Harvard University, where he earned a graduate degree in architecture. In addition to making sculpture, animations and watercolors, he has created many public art works. They include Commutable (1996), for which he gilded the steps of the Manhattan Bridge; large-scale video projections on buildings such as Leap (2000), made for 2 Columbus Circle; The Moons (2007), a permanent LED installation for the gardens of the Sprint Arena in Kansas City, MO, and Showershade (2010), a permanent installation at the Police and Fire Training Academy in Austin, TX. In 2007, Doyle also produced 50,000 Beds, a collaboration with forty-five other artists in an installation presented simultaneously at three Connecticut locations: the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Artspace in New Haven, and Real Art Ways in Hartford.