Saturday, August 14, 2010

“Perfection is the booby prize of life”

Douglas Utter's favorite giraffe image:


Reprinting here what Douglas Utter wrote about my backroom show in Ohio at William Busta Gallery, from his online magazine site giraffe trap.

The piece below is written just like he talks, slowly and emphatically. He presented the above giraffe image caught in a trap at One Minute, One Image, so I guess his online journal is appropriately titled.

Thanks Douglas for the thoughtful review!!

Concurrently on display in Busta’s narrow Print and Drawing room are a group of engaging small collage/drawing works by Austin Thomas. These deceptively delicate studies, caught sometimes in the act of unfolding against or through the gridded skin of a graph paper background, explore enduring thoughts about the speciation of drawing and sculpture. And like Tyrrell’s enamel studies, they’re all about the magic of placement, and the mutable margins stretching between actual and imaginary terrains.

Based in New York, Thomas has exhibited at White Columns and The Drawing Center among other venues. In 2005 the
Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC showed 28 examples of her ongoing collage series, combined with wooden three dimensional structures she calls “social sculpture,” in homage to Joseph Beuys’s famous formulation and the idea that social systems add up to (or can be rearranged to constitute) one great work of art. Her 2005 “Free Form Perch” is ten by nine feet in circumference and five feet high. The five concentric bench-like tiers unwind upward to a single topmost seat. Another of Beuys’s dictums was “Everyone is an artist.” Structures like Thomas’ bench or her recycled plastic “Double Lounger” (which is something like a deckchair built for two) and her extensive series of “Perch” works, give people a
chance to participate in her work, becoming artists in a way, or even (briefly), art itself. Also influential has been the “anarchitecture” of 1970’s Situationism-inspired artist Gordon Matta-Clark, whose version of detournement involved the alteration of decaying inner city buildings. By slicing away sections of wall and opening up urban vistas he transformed and extended the history of abandoned places and their residual contents.

Thomas collects rulers, which she cuts and shapes so that they can be used to make crooked lines. “Perfection is the booby prize of life,” she remarks, and her pseudo-geometric dodecahedron in “Perspective Study,” is, as one might expect,
non-Euclidean (though in this case the outlines of her figure are pretty straight). Thomas builds an approximate order on the basis of chaos, using cut fragments of paper covered with scribbles, letters, and snatches of drawings. A dialogue between
random disorder and formal simplicity (Thomas is also a fan of Ellsworth Kelly’s abstract clarity) ensues, like a song teetering at the brink of noise.

In these works sense falls apart just when it begins to fall together – they're sketches of the way life is, as organisms (like
us) negotiate their desires across the permeable borders of being. In one of her blog posts Thomas writes, “Next up, experiments in and with new and different, reformed, informed and all encompassing forms of selfhood (folded, presented, performed, baked, butted, and drawn crooked).”

-- Douglas Max Utter

Free Form Perch

1 comment:

Kianga Ellis said...

This is great, Austin! Thanks for posting it here.