Regen Projects, Los Angeles | May 24 – June 28, 2014
It could be argued that Gabriel Kuri’s approach to sculpture has been over-rehearsed during the past century, but on rare occasions art such as his demonstrates that it will always be possible to brush the formal and conceptual cobwebs off of any way of working and provoke actual surprise if not innovation. Because the found everyday object has been not only a key component of sculpture’s production since the early 20th century, but also, most radically, often the only component of its making (its selection + presentation = production), maybe this type of sculpture is as prone to exhaustion as, let’s say, the entire category of painting, meaning, well, wait a minute, maybe not so fast. I came away from Kuri’s work appreciating that, yes, it is fast, but its impact comes from its ability to slow us down without losing its momentum.
The organization of the installation provides a cadence to the exhibition that reverberates with and/or against each type of work presented in it. Starting from the entrance to the large main gallery, two types of works (with five versions of one, and three of the other) have been installed in alternation on the left and right walls. While one unique floor work claims the front of the space, another singular work is placed in the center, and five of yet another type are positioned at the back. (Visually the arrangement is crystal clear.)
The works on the two walls set up a binary “on/off” situation. For example, a sculpture like “self portrait as a basic symmetrical distribution loop” (all works 2014) is very much “on.” Made from a thin sheet of silver insulation foam that has been tied provisionally into a curvilinear shape with string, and finished off with two of what are labeled on the checklist as “didactic cardboard coins” (each has been printed with an image of a stack containing, by order of size, a dime, penny, nickel, quarter, dollar, and half dollar), it is an assisted-readymade that is all at once casual and tight, quirky yet elegant—qualities that are maintained in the rest of this particular series, even though the cardboard coins have been replaced in the other versions by such things as crushed V8 juice cans, wooden doorstops, a conch shell, and plastic bottles or a bag each containing “undisclosed liquid.” Despite whatever makes them self-portraits remaining stubbornly oblique, I was satisfied by how they played with bodily presence, if not function, a kind of teasing suggestiveness that carried well across the exhibition. That said, the other wall-based works were complementary in a less striking manner. For example “thank you hole RP01,” one of a series made from the stainless steel fronts of trash receptacles each with THANK YOU printed on its hygienic surface, came off as “off.” These pieces resonated as predictable surrogate paintings that were barely rescued by their humor.
Credit is due to the largest work in the exhibition, a unique sculpture wittily titled “credit becomes retail.” Made of eight brightly-colored steel circles, of which two are bent and two are curved, it hits all of its targets: from the graphic design of banks to formalist sculpture, as well as the thin line—represented by the padding blankets that have been wedged between its parts—that separates presentation from storage.
The most successful works, however, are the five arranged in the back half of the gallery. My favorite, “stop start exponential growth 05,” is a volcanic rock that has been placed on the floor next to what is labeled a “Cameron boulder,” with a blown-up condom and a balled-up pair of white tube socks wedged and suspended between them. With these sculptures Kuri not only put sufficient distance between his work and that of Gabriel Orozco or Tony Feher, but also made sure that he would not find himself redundantly reworking the tropes of 20th-century sculpture. Paying off more and more over time, they are well titled, as well as wonderfully rhythmic (numbers 01, 02, and 03 have more components, giving them a beat), strangely specific (the “slow” volcanic rocks remind him of the landscape of his native Mexico), and simultaneously on and off (a quality shared by the relatively “fast” condoms and tube socks, one could say).
ContributorTerry R. Myers
Terry R. Myers is a critic and independent curator based in Los Angeles.