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This text is by Corrie Baldauf in her capacity and does not, necessarily, reflect the views of different infinite mile contributors, infinite mile co-founders, the authors' employers and/or other affiliations.  

The Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith

Pre- and Post-use Nostalgia

Corrie Baldauf

Imagine entering an unfamiliar space and deciding where to sit. An intuitive calculation occurs if the first spot selected feels right. Considering how visitors situate themselves in a gallery came to mind when I went to see both Fernando and Humberto Campana/Recent Works at Re:View Contemporary Gallery (4/26 - 5/31/2014) and Micheal E. Smith at Susanne Hilberry Gallery (4/25 - 6/7/2014.) Viewing the Campana Brothers’ and Michael E. Smith’s sculptures in the context of the gallery and in the context of the collectors’ home sets the stage for a three-part circuit. It begins with reflections of the artists’ domestic and commercial experiences, carries into the gallery to be compared with our experiences, and lands in our collection of memories and actual dwelling spaces.

It is possible that both the Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith would agree with Jacques Derrida's suggestion that the parking meters outside of the gallery weigh into our read of an artwork. Do their sculptures also serve to illuminate our connections to commerce and its role in our notions of nostalgia?

Let's begin in the courtyard at Re:View Contemporary Gallery. Summer storms keep us focused on the sky above, while seven works by conceptual designers Fernando and Humberto Campana hide below waist height in Re:View’s two galleries.

Chairs constructed of cotton ropes, steel, plastic hose, toys, and epoxy stand in greeting, spanning the two galleries. Small collections of each material are assembled with consideration reminiscent of vendors in Brazil displaying traditional dolls and hats for purchase. Like materials are grouped with like materials without an emphasis on the feats of provisional structuring, as in Michael DeLucia's industrial broom sculptures. Similar to Franz West's rebar “Beautiful View” [“Schöne Aussicht”] chair (1989), each Campana assemblage is simply and considerably the quantity of objects needed to render a sculpture that affords the collector a place to sit.

figure 1

The Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith_01


Campana Brothers
Cake Stool, 2008
Stuffed animals hand-sewn on canvas cover over brushed stainless steel structure; edition 80 of 150 
Image courtesy of Re:View Contemporary Gallery.

In the back of the main gallery there is a chaise teeming with wild stuffed animals (fig. 1). “Cake Stool” (2008) relates back to the concept of the “Banquete Chair” (2002). The Campana Brothers describe that the pieces “have a dark side…it’s like the food chain in nature whereby one creature eats the next. At first it seems to be a chair for children or something very lighthearted. But there is also something quite perverse about this chair…” The works serve as a vivid example of Jean Baudrillard’s second phase of the image, masking and perverting a basic reality. The animals do this coyly, heralding a pre-use nostalgia that brings to mind the unadulterated surfaces of Jeff Koons animal sculptures and the construction of Mike Kelly's plush toy satellites. Unlike the associated works, the Campanas’ sculptures lay low and look upward--rendering the viewer as the towering entity.

In a post-use and seemingly alternate reality, Michael E. Smith is accomplishing a similar feat with his sculptures at Hilberry Gallery. T-shirts, steel, air hose, PVC pipes, seashells, spoons, and enamel assemble as seventeen sculptures or situations that emerge from the walls, floors and pedestals of Hilberry’s two galleries. In the front of the first gallery, there is a lean, teetering PVC tower, bulging and digesting two clarinets that nod to Franz West's, "Urinello" (2008). Not since Andy Coolquitt's Persian rug swifter, housed in the "This Much" (2007) installation (http://www.coolquitt.com/index.php?/this-much/), and his "somebody-mades", has a contemporary artist re-sounded such a declaration of what it means to be non-nomadic.

figure 2

The Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith_02


Michael E. Smith
Untitled, 2014
spoons, steel, pvc pipe
Image courtesy of Susanne Hilberry Gallery.

In the second gallery there is a set of spoons, or, rather, the unwieldy heads of a set of spoons, tooled by the artist like pieces of beef jerky and held mid-bite in the multiple mouths of two PVC pipes in repose (fig. 2). They perch on a pedestal with the surface area of a dining room table. The table is one of four, placed in a grid and, sizably, the focal point of the exhibition. During the opening, a couple entered this gridded space creating a visual tableau of David Hockney's "American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)" (1968).

Both of these works imply that digestion is started even though resolution is impossible. The situations render the PVC pipes as trapping reliquaries for metal and wood. The work is a jeweled view of what is happening under our bathroom sinks. It is as if Smith is sharing William Carlos Williams’ realizations in The Red Wheelbarrow poem ("XXII" from Spring and All. New York: Contact Editions / Dijon: Maurice Darantière. 1923): 

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

figure 3

The Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith_03


Michael E. Smith
Duck, 2011
altered leather duffel bag, tape
Image courtesy of Susanne Hilberry Gallery.

The Campana Brothers and Smith are preserving the tools that they realize "so much depends upon." In turn, so are the collectors of their work. An attentive Los Angeles collector respects the importance of Smith's work in situ. He hires the artist to sense out the placement of the work in his collection. The sculpture that was lodged in the front door handle of Susanne Hilberry in 2011 (fig. 3) is now comfortably tucked under a dark wood shelf in the collectors home (fig. 4).

figure 4

The Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith_04


Michael E. Smith
Duck, 2011
altered leather duffel bag, tape
Collection Kourosh Larizadeh and Luis Pardo
Image courtesy of Susanne Hilberry Gallery.

Comparing the artwork at Susanne Hilberry Gallery and the designs at Re:View Contemporary Gallery triggers a reminder of the value artists and designers bring to their materials. When we catch ourselves taking a fresh look at our spoons, folded t-shirts, and garden hoses, we have the Campana Brothers and Michael E. Smith to thank.


works cited

Campana Brothers at Re:view Contemporary Gallery (2014): http://www.reviewcontemporary.com/

Michael E. Smith at Susanne Hilberry Gallery (2014): http://www.susannehilberrygallery.com/

Williams, William Carlos. The Red Wheelbarrow. "XXII" from Spring and All.  New York: Contact Editions / Dijon: Maurice Darantière. 1923.

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link - issue 07: June 2014