Day Old Donut! turns out to be a perfectly fitting title for the show at 500x by Matthew Clark, Clayton Hurt, and Joel Kiser, who present high calorie art food that proves simultaneously filling and unsatisfying. The centerpiece is a Pinewood Derby race track (think boy scouts and little cars speeding down a slope) on the warehouse gallery’s second floor. A long list of artists has contributed unique derby car creations, ranging from the goofy (a piece of cheese with wheels) to the art referential (Brancusi’s “Bird in Space” or Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde shark tank). It all fits the exhibition’s boyish clubhouse feel, pandering in its efforts to entertain and amuse by outwardly embracing cultural highs and lows.
Joel Kiser’s series of small sculptures are all about this high and low-brow collision, and the results feel cheeky in an art-schoolish kind of way. Kiser casts tiny iron play-sets populated with figurines that range from Jesus and robed saintly figures to Transformers and little soldiers. Kiser’s is a mythological bait-and-switch, disarming his religious objects and equating their power to that of pop culture heroes. Unfazed by hitting us over the head with his symbolism, another of Kiser’s pieces features an iron-cast Optimus Prime figurine – the leader and hero of the Transformer characters — strapped onto and hung on the wall with Edith Hamilton’s classic, Mythology.
Clayton Hurt also presents small sculpture – novel little trifles that are offered as witty riddles. There’s a series of plaster, white dead birds on pedestals, poked with little toothpick flags with text: “baby bird” or “oh, the lies.” On one wall, globular marshmallow letters spell out “Ranch Style Beans.” The kitsch continues: Andy Warhol’s banana makes a few appearances – as a wire sculpture, then repeated in a grid across a canvas, and the tiny shape cut dozens of times into a rusted oil barrel. Across the top of the barrel the word “peace” is stencil-cut, framing the “piece” [murmur] as a semi-ironic political statement. It all lacks the expressiveness of some of Hurt’s other work, his larger-scale, angst ridden psycho-sexual sculptures that recast Maurizio Cattelan or Paul McCarthy in gritty, earthy materials. These little pieces feel more like studies moving towards something, blank and forgettable.
Matthew Clark’s contribution to the show, It’s too early to forecast this struggle’s outcome, Machine – Gun Mike! is the most visually interesting. The artist bundles together three vehicular objects with bungee chords: an oversized wooden cart, a paper-maiche car, and vinyl dinosaur. The “struggle” in the title seems to be tied to the materials: beast versus machine, old versus new, wood versus paper versus plastic. Yet the tethering suggests reliance as well. Each object is useless – the cart has nothing to pull it, the car has no wheels, and the dino is dead or deflated. Is this a vehicular history? A political commentary on transportation? About fossil fuel? A metaphor for consumptive reliance? Is it all about to be carted to the dump?