Sunday, May 22, 2016

Beautiful nonsense

curated by Norm Magnusson

here are moments in our lives when we are liberated from our sense of time or place, unmoored from reality even. Waking up in a strange bed, we may genuinely be confused for a moment as to where we actually are. During the course of an ordinary day we may experience a thing called "déja vu," where we are swept off our perceptual sure footing by an overwhelming feeling that we have been in this place or in this situation before. Walking through the woods, we may be certain for a split second that the stick across the path is actually an enormous snake.

These moments, these breaks from the perceptual certainty that we take for granted as we move throughout our lives (however brief most of them are) open our minds to another way of being, and take us to another place, a place where we are either completely confounded or have a complete certainty that is at odds with our habitual and ordinary certainty.

* * * 

Is that a great place to be, the momentary and delightful respite from the quotidien certainty with which we almost always conduct our affairs? Or is it a scary place, akin to a psychotic break, leaving us, albeit temporarily, adrift in unknown and unwelcoming seas? Certainly, the answer depends on the individual.

And are these "breaks" only attainable by chance or can we cause them ourselves? In our own human creations and as a result of our own force of will? Throughout art history, certainly many creative souls have tried, in theatre and poetry and film and in the visual arts -- attempting to create art that can find a way around the tyranny of rationality that is our "intellect" and speaks directly to our subconscious, or our soul -- attempting to confound and confuse, and in so doing, to clarify or illuminate a separate path.

Creating that disconnect, or jump, was one of the goals of much dada art. As Dona Budd wrote on her "Language of art knowledge" cards: "dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition." While that certainly lays the ground work for the kind of break I've been writing about above, less immediately clear to me (at this point in time) is what, if any, intention they, the dadaists, had for eschewing rationality and embracing nonsense. What did they want to accomplish with their art, if anything?

"Cadeau" by Man Ray

For me, those moments, those breaks from the beautiful expectedness of rational living are luscious and luxurious and eminently worth trying to find over and over again. And so, by short extension, are also worth trying to create. Perhaps that was a goal of the dadaists for many of their ready mades and cut-up poems? It is certainly a goal of some of the contemporary artists who made the beautiful nonsenses below.  

Many of these pieces in this exhibition create a disconnect between our previous experience with the objects they represent (or started out as) and the non-functionality (or non-sense) that the artist has given them. In most cases, into that little gap of rational disconnection, the artists have driven some kind of meaning or commentary, giving their artworks both a visceral and an intellectual power that brings to mind the old joke:

Q: How many dadaists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Fish.

I hope you enjoy the show.

Guiseppe Colarusso
(an homage will be in the show)

Keetra Dean Dixon

(a print of her "Objects of codependency" will be in the show, and perhaps the actual objects: "Doublloon" and "Every breath you take")
from her "Objects of Codependency" series. Clockwise from top left: "Doubloon",  "I've got your back",   "Every breath you take", "In your eyes", "Significant spooning", and "Keep an eye on you".

Thomas Downing
(would love to have this in the exhibition - collection of Whitney Museum NYC)

Molly Rausch

David Goldin

Jared Handelsman

(a print will be in the exhibition)

"Driving around"

Peter Iannarelli

"One Very Confused Cheerio"   plastic, cheerio

Lynn Itzkowitz


"Little fan" 2005  graphite and tape over object

Katerina Kamprani


Matt Kinney

Robert Lazzarini

Livia Marin

Myra Mimlitsch-Gray

Rebecca Holt & Jeff Newman

Two walls and a floor painted to look like a checkerboard limbo. An interactive snapshot station for #BeautifulNonsense

Yoko Ono
(would love to have this in the exhibition)

Meret Oppenheim
(would love to have this in the exhibition)

Robert Rauschenberg
(would love to have this in the exhibition)

Robert Rickhoff
(prints of the objects will be in the show and a re-creation of the blade handle.)

Steve Rossi

(sculpture and video) 

Joy Taylor
"Coven"   Wood, human hair

Hap Tivey

(video installation)

Chris Victor

(sculptures - 2 indoors and one outdoors)

"Between you and me" 2012

"Ladder" 2012

"Road signs" 2015

Eleanor White


Anonymous artists

"Afternoon tea" Ceramic cup with no bottom

"Gift (after Man Ray)"

"Lawn chair"

Unknown artist - 2d sidewalk painting trompe l'oeil
(will find for exhibition)