The following is a delightful review of Gallery Loupe’s recent show, The Birthday Boys by ≥’s first guest writer (!), Misha Kahn. Please see the previous post for photos.
Kellie was visiting me in NYC, over at my house trying to convince me to get on approximately 15 trains to go look at tiny things in Montclair, New Jersey. It was one of those Saturday afternoons that puts you into a sleepy daze, the kind that doesn’t make you want to trek out into the boonies for really anything one ain’t able to afford. But after a bit of convincing I came along – I’m not entirely unfamiliar with contemporary jewelry, but my understanding of it is largely through an easy comparison to my own playing field – furniture. It’s a similar set of problems, mostly peoples’ curiously rigid logic that design or craft or art should all get processed in different parts of the brain. Sure, aesthetics can translate but at the end of the day that little pin-back or those four legs force it into some other part of cerebral processing. And, rather hypocritically, I process most of these types of “craft” media in terms of whether or not I want to own it, wear it, or put it in my house. Unlike most people though my fantasy shopping isn’t limited by comfort or practicality or really any pragmatic concerns that the mainstream would use to evaluate “design” objects.
Let me tell you, I wanted everything at this show. Now, let me tell you why:
The Birthday Boys’ work was divided diagonally down the gallery, between a line of optically perplexing mirrored structures with delicate metal feelers on one side and little nuggets of perfection on the other, part memphis part maquette part tiny silly color texture pattern blocked objet d’brooch.
Peter Skubic’s mirrored mini chosms where like tiny little fun houses for your lapel. The way they reflected your face, fragmenting it and introducing your neighbors faces and body parts, re- configuring them felt reminiscent of a Hockney joiner or cubist painting. This way of seeing makes so much sense, because we never really see anything without processing it, introducing our own knowledge and memories of what surrounds us. These brooches function as glasses for seeing how we see – allowing us to see the room unpeiced, before our brain assembles these parts. The delicate feelers reaching out had the effect of an antanea, making sure the wearer didn’t bump into anything too close, but it’s easily altered forms become a memory of the space that the object has encountered, recording each of its run ins with its new, altered shapes. The pieces become a collection of memories, those recorded, and those of the moment, deconstructed and put on view. This to me seemed a more than valid justification for making a slew of objects that for all intensive purposes where quite similar. Because they were about this alteration of space, and this shattered view they worked more strongly in this extensive line up.
Although within contemporary jewelry there is no surprise when an object falls outside the mainstream convention of sparkly/shiny/precious, and since the other Birthday Boy was working with such high, reflective sheen, Thomas Gentilles felt extra fresh. Because of this, his work seemed even more reminiscent of the Memphis response to the largely chromed, sleek furniture of the early 80’s. His use of color, mixing pattern and play between angular construction and more imaginative shape and proportion added to this connection. However, on this scale the play between shape and pattern became far more engaging. As much as I hate to ever call things architectural, being as unimaginative as saying “it’s nice”- these brooches had some qualities of miniatures that forced this connection. Trying to imagine them blown up I was displeased, but at their current size, with the detailed prints of shattered eggshell they felt like pocket size maps to imaginary worlds. It was as though he discovered some secret area where a miniature only works at that size – a rarity in the object world where scale is frequently arbitrary or as large as the market will allow. In this brooches he created the effect of a window – functioning in such an abstract way – that one might be looking at Gentille’s world from a 10,000 foot altitude or standing so close its about to go out of focus.
Gentille’s play of scale and distance in conjunction with Skubics alteration of vision and memory made a show that left you in a blissful imaginative daze. Wandering back into the streets of suburban New Jersey feeling adjacent to standard space and time — all conjured by something to wear that on a Lapel – that is really something.
Misha Kahn, RISD BFA Furniture ’11 and Fulbright Fellow, Israel 2011-12, lives and works in Brooklyn (surprise!), New York.