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Amy Gartrell, Function Creep

Daniel Reich Gallery
537 West 23rd Street, 212-924-4949
October 20 - November 24, 2007
Reception: Saturday, October 20, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Daniel Reich Gallery is very pleased to announce Function Creep an exhibition of new work by Amy Gartrell. Function Creep represents a departure for Gartrell, as she transports the gallery space into an eerie environment showcasing sculpture and metastatic ceramic work playing with the supernatural as a cipher for the metaphysical birthplace of culture.

Gartrell is drawn to epistemology, the supernatural and the unconscious and the manifestations of such systems of methodology. She embodies this interest through the representational mutation of materials, the employment of temporal and interpretive strategies to arrive at a spectacular yet homely aesthetic, which expertly exemplifies Freud’s unheimlich. While the title of Gartrell’s exhibition Function Creep evokes this notion of the uncanny, the term also refers to the evolution in consumer use of products designed for one function into other uses for which they were not originally designed. This reference to contemporary economics contributes to Gartrell’s work by fusing the metaphysical and the technological. For instance, a lamp with a scatological mass is elevated by the beacon of a cell phone tower. The cumbersome term “function creep” evokes a glacial slide as Gartrell’s curious forms momentarily arrest the eye while indicating a surreal passage of time whether by references to astrological charts or the worn quality of an object used repeatedly. For instance, Untitled (Table) is a sculpture, which points to the temporal, while negating it through the incorporation of the past into the present. As a wood object, the table embodies the passage of time in its grain and period detail. Its underbelly has an accumulation of stalactites like a hermaphroditic weighty udder or penile cluster. Stalactites imply suspended motion, the slow extension of particles through droplets over time and bring into play geological time another theme of the exhibition. This same table has also, evidently been used by an unknown protagonist currently unseen who in many intervals, has rested the same glass on its surface indicated by proliferating circular water stains clustered in a free ranging pattern like droplet’s hitting a body of water. In this way, we feel we are seeing remnants although from a dream-like distance where daily life transpires in the blur of stop motion.

Gartrell’s sculptures are literal and descriptive sites of contention signaling the implicit emergence of the hermetic into the worldly via the metaphor of their materialization in open space. For Your Protection realizes this revelation through the juxtaposition of the sculptural block that is this CPU (central processing unit) as the energy source for the new tumorous, reliquary-like object. There is also a Cronenbergian aspect about Gartrell’s use of the biomorphic especially when described by the term Function Creep that implies the internalization of the technological by the individual. For instance, an obsolete computer becomes a sculpture, its keyboard unusable beneath the weight of a shell like ceramic form and its screen concealed behind a piece of stained glass. Circuits once alive with the heat of daily use are smothered within the awkwardness of a fossil like machine—an obstinate block containing an individuals aspirations marked in personal correspondence now as quiet as the dais on a sun dial – the archeological byproduct of planned obsolescence.

Amid this strangeness and antiquarian surroundings, a hollow tree, stained deep black in its exterior, is another shell like the computer. Viewed in low light by means of its association with the natural world, it has ghost-like implications. It’s body is a bit Bengalis-like, not quite phallic, not quite vaginal, not quite human but mythic stained with dull rainbow hues on the inside as though from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. As with the table, it is an anthropomorphological mute object that despite the artist’s work occurs more like a silent stoppage than part of a continuum – confronting with layers of formal association rather than a clear sentence.

As one continues through Gartrell’s space, one encounters a final apparition, a glass cabinet or display case in which the mysterious collector or sculptor displays a number of ceramic creations looking like sea worms and incorporating geodes and sea shells, artifacts of natural use, set up in a new dazzling presentation dramatic on rotating trays veering towards spectacle. Altogether unholy with a potted plant perched on top as though to anchor it and brightly colored on the interior, this living plant contrasts the encrusted, calcified fossils and their compounded, petrified glaze finish. This display evokes both the shabby aesthetic of regional displays of artwork and something hyper-real, super-dimensional, as in Gartrell’s airbrushed paintings. And it is in this medium that certain magic takes place or importantly for the artist the endowment of low culture with an aura and transcendental voluptuousness.

For Gartrell, it is a staged conundrum—genuine yet fragmented, lost but with a high ebullience. While not literally primordial, the works exist by being of the present and through the creator’s hand foresee the passage of the society of the present, as Gartrell effectively cements together the language of the past such movements melded with the genuine, inherent quality of belief and feeling.

As Gartrell’s sculptures operate like spatial barricades; this function is enhanced by their evocation of the unworldly in the form of the “strange” encounter so that they are blockades against the comfortably numb present. Walking through the space, one pauses for a moment in a highly invested environment rife with symbolism. Light and dark and presentation are at work as well, for as Gartrell uses a dim room in which to display her fantastic sculptures, tricks of the eye amplify the familiar yet odd quality of her forms. Being surreal objects of the artist’s imagination, the issue of “materialization” strongly manifests itself as the realization of the metaphysical by a symbolic aesthetic. The results structure themselves as a complete epistemology within the space of the room: sun, moon and stars and the basis of creation so that one is trapped within a world of referents to the primordial. As Gartrell’s earliest punk, pop, acidly-colored endeavors posited a histrionic “burn baby burn” melancholic ingénue, her post-punk incarnation has the collected archetypal gravity of an Earth Mother, artist in pastoral exile appropriating the “sacred female.” In this scenario, Gartrell is a sculptress from Vermont who while not sculpting assesses the possibilities of her astrological chart. It is plausible this sculptress feels a kinship with the Wyrd Sisters of Old Norse who during their cameo in Shakespeare’s Macbeth are at once highly material in their spectacular hyper real incarnation stirring a dubious meaty stew, as well as metaphysical with the ability to disappear beyond linear time and interpretative reading Faustian riddles of the future out of the ether.

Yet at its conclusion Future Creep characteristically and fantastically adopts magic as an aesthetic with multiple variants to present something wild, a bit ebullient, and beyond any rational characterization leaving the viewer a bit stumped and this feeling is an irrepressible sensation and very much a part of this wonderful body of work. With Function Creep, Gartrell’s language of the past years ingeniously coalesces and percolates opening up new imaginings and possibilities.
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