In There is a Screen, Daniel Baird and Ryan Lauderdale present work that attempts to create compelling artifacts of the past, accessed through the sleek aesthetics of contemporary technology. Brimming with reflective surfaces that complicate our sense of space, it’s nearly impossible to view a solitary piece in the exhibition without considering its meaning. Rather than creating a distracting atmosphere, this generates a sense of cohesion, encouraging the illusion that the works are successfully operating in response to each other, rather than battling for isolated attention.
Concerned with the intangibility of historical knowledge, Baird exploits the contradiction between technology and the artist’s hand, generating works that leverage both additive and subtractive measures.
Staged in tamperproof hardware, Recursion (4) (2014) is presented as an artifact, protected behind impenetrable glass. Unlike a museum display, however, the front panel is so dark that only an outline of the object can be seen as it competes with reflections of the artwork that punctuate the rest of the exhibition space. The side view reveals a sculpture, reminiscent of a transplanted piece of an ancient wall, supported by a mount more commonly used for a television or computer monitor.
In Capsule (The Cave) (2014), Baird makes equal use of polished, machine-fabricated design and hand-molded forms, creating a work that is at once rigid and amorphous. A large sheet of dark, transparent acrylic allows viewers to peer through the manufactured structure to view a seemingly malformed and indeterminate shape, suspended from the work’s frame. The shape, evocative of an underground cave formation rendered in three dimensions, is held with such care and delicacy, reminiscent of a broken leg in traction, that it feels palpably precarious. The handles on the structure, however, introduce an idea of portability, giving the illusion that its placement within a larger historical timeline is temporary.
Created from a composite of marble dust and resin, Vestige (We must go on, We can’t go on, We’ll go on) (2014), is both significant and delicate. Slightly larger than human scale, the two nearly identical pieces, along with their titles, reference a peformative circuit between people. Here, the artist’s hand is used literally, his finger displacing material from form, beginning to end.
Where Baird makes equal use of his hand and the machine, much of Lauderdale’s work relies heavily on previously constructed pieces. Lauderdale is candid about his interest in furniture design and the nature of building. Many of his works contain altered and transformed pieces of actual furniture, including a table from CB2 and sections of Elfa–a customizable, modular shelving and drawer system sold at the Container Store. Lauderdale challenges the boundaries of his material’s intended use, yet the semi-intuitive nature of the work may make it unable to completely fill a conceptual void inherent in its creation. Though lustrous and appealing in design, the works seem incapable of overcoming or transcending the weight of their commercial application. The sculptures remain conscious of existing in a grey area, capable of referencing artifacts without actually becoming them, as may be the artists’ intention.
Two paintings by Lauderdale provide a stark contrast to his modulated sculptural works. When confronted with the paintings in the gallery – one installed significantly higher than average and one situated uncomfortably close to a sculptural work using bright green tape with Container Store branding – it’s difficult to know whether the paintings are in earnest. The artist’s hand, minimized and seemingly disparaged in the sculptural work, is a main focus of the paintings. In Fairlight (2014), multiple colors are delicately blended. Unlike the sleek aesthetic quality of the sculptures, Lauderdale makes no attempt to hide the artist’s hand in the paintings. Tape lines where colors overlap are easily visible, producing an endearing level of imperfection. Similar in palette, Alfalfa Beach, 2013, increases the visibility of the artist’s hand, and the resulting image is more gestural, though with an equally meditative net effect.
While formally pleasing, both works reference painting tropes that provoke the viewer to question the artist’s intentions. It is easy to imagine similar paintings, produced in mass and readily available, hanging next to the furniture Lauderdale frequently uses. If this is the case, it may be the most effective and though provoking part of Lauderdale’s practice.
Initially, both Baird and Lauderdale’s work in There is a Screen gives the impression of two complimentary bodies of work, functioning together to support a strikingly similar objective. In addressing our elusive and ultimately irreverent desire to distinguish between technology and humanity, Baird’s work is capable of surpassing its initial role as artifact, while Lauderdale’s work, emphasizing our dependence on machinery and readymade constructions, falls short of reuniting the viewer with our lost past. The exhibition’s success, however, rests in its ability to allow the more visually and conceptually complex work to dominate the landscape and conversation, while the remaining pieces, though aesthetically and formally complimentary, are relegated to a supporting role.
There Is A Screen: Ryan Lauderdale and Daniel Baird was on view May 10th–June 22nd at LVL3, 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Floor. http://lvl3media.com/gallery/