Curated by The Art Guys
“Jim Pirtle has worn many hats in his life and because of this, he has presented audiences with an odd and unique view of the world…but notsuoH, Jim’s functional, experimental, social/sculptural urban environment, is his supreme art/life work.”
Societal paraphernalia like high heels, records made by one-hit wonders and vintage clothing not only make up the ephemera of our popular culture, but serve as the building blocks for the artwork of Jim Pirtle. He has inherited and collected a wide range of materials, resulting in an amalgamation akin to the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp and Claes Oldenburg, but with a touch of sentimentality for the past that these objects connotate. The line between his life and his artwork is blurry at best, founding a work-meeting-living space in the heart of downtown Houston in 1996 called notsuoH, “Houston” spelled backwards (at left). Purchased from a failing entrepreneur who tried a bevy of ventures in the space, leaving many of the remnants behind, the building now functions as a studio, bar, music venue, performance space and living area for Pirtle and the other local artists and eccentrics of the Houston scene. But the building does not just house art and artists, it has become art in its own right. A vibrant, active microcosm, constantly evolving while still retaining the material accouterments of the past, it has become the “eye of the storm,” bringing together people, installation, music, performances and happenings.
Pirtle’s statues made out of old bottle corks, portraits painted on gaudy polyester shirts and video of the artist as Forest Gump combine with walls of shoes and album covers, old mannequins, bicycles and various other kitsch to create this truly inordinate environment. Much of Pirtle’s work reflects this sense of overindulgence and unconventionality, teetering along the line between art and mass-consumerism and exemplifying our innate desire for accumulation. Pirtle has also at times donned an alter ego, Stu Mulligan, a masochist who consumes mayonnaise and hot sauce until he vomits, jumps from the tops of buildings and shows images of generations of his family on his stomach. While there is definitely insanity, there is also sentimentality. Pirtle offers viewers a unique look at the things and people of the past while forcing the participant to step out of the bounds of the present. Rejecting the postmodern world, Pirtle finds his peace through creating his own reality – through intermixing art and everyday objects, the distinction is blurred to the point that the whole becomes art in its own right; art and life are one in the same.
On view at CUE Art Foundation, Pirtle’s first solo show in New York, will be a smaller version of Pirtle’s infamous building, notsuoH. Transported across the country, Pirtle will bring with him an assortment of works and performance documentation from throughout his career. Portraits of friends on polyester shirts, wallpaper, a collage of photographs taped to the floor, antique auditorium seats and faded accounting ledgers to name only a few. The show will not only be a nod to the life and work of Pirtle, but to the past we all share and our innate desire to create something of our own.