Do It Again
Untitled by Ryan HitzelThe plan for the "Manufactured Inspirato"show—one of the strongest yet for the still-growing Koo's gallery—is simple: repeat, repeat. Each artist had to make 100 objects—to apply something of "manufacturing" technique to their "inspirato" and see what happened. But now that each family of objects is up for display, it looks like "manufactured" undershoots what "Inspirato" is about: some artists took the concept literally, some pulled it closer to an old-timey quiltin' bee than to the Xerox machine, some even look like they outsourced it.
Instead, the introduction of an assembly line in the artist's studio isn't exactly what "Inspirato" is about. It's an examination of repetition itself. The heart of "Inspirato" is the same regimented repetition that regulates the heart of the modern (and post-modern) world, so an art exhibit that revels in the repetitive asks a fresh set of questions: Can the unique exist within the identical? How does a rigidly repetitive process affect unreproduceable creativity? Or, to put it in their terms, "What is art without individuality?" Take a second to poke your head over the cubicle wall and wonder about it.
Not everybody in "Inspirato" went for it. There are the artists who sat down and simply started keeping score—simply making more "things" than they might have otherwise. This slides toward a different point; it's closer to Van Gogh painting haystacks or Monet painting lilies—repetition only as result.
So Brendan Monroe's paper faces? They're neatly made and none are happy. Jason Irwin's agit-boxes? Real smart design, and the homilies in DANGER/PELIGRO typography inside would make cute anti-ads. Misia Pitkin's paper chairs? Cute as hell and happily successful at capturing the joy in cutting and gluing paper, as Pitkin wanted. And Juan Thorp's plaster frogs? Kinda gift-shoppy, but—as dictates the marketplace—some are cooler than others.
It's the artists who did change the way they put their work together who are the most compelling: those who established a process—who set parameters for repetition—and then stepped back and let the process twist and turn into itself. Sometimes, it really did just result in copies—Elias Crouch's "Diagnosis" (custom little prescription pads with remedies like "cheap alcohol" and "fucking get over it") or Ryan Hitzel's life-affirming beach balls (we don't wanna spoil the punch line here). There's not much difference between 10 or 100, but there is something about appropriating the tropes of mass production—maybe it's that new-plastic smell—that's still got a little thrill to it.
But sometimes other things happened. Sometimes the repetition wavers as it refracts toward the infinite, revealing individuality within the identical, a fascinating but gentle echo of the character of the organic. It's almost evolutionary; there's a connection made here between the mechanical manufacturing process and the natural equivalent—remember the term "baby factory"?—that's subtle but somehow powerful, and it's strongest in Sharan Gillespie's "Creatures." They look like little plaster blobs molded in hanging plastic bags, and they are pastel-colored like certain mints, and they have spots of fungus growing on them (so they really are alive), and they are all different yet—of course—all the same. The pieces that figured this out by themselves are the most memorable. So say those little pink blobs: set up your rules and step back. You'll see there are always ways to be different.
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