In the Present Tense

a Critical Look at our Immediate Culture

Kirk Stoller

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still standing…sort of at Storefront Bushwick

Kirk Stoller: still standing...sort of at Storefront Bushwick

I was at an opening fairly recently, and had an interesting discussion with an older artist to whom I was just introduced about our respective practices, which then got into the territory of where we happened to grow up and how that may/not have affected our overall aesthetic in a Nature vs. Nurture way. His contention being that my having been raised in a very rural area of Western Pennsylvania, given its emptiness, at least with regard to the relative scarcity of other people and man-made interventions, was perhaps a contributing factor to my very stark minimalism, or my decision to completely reduce the work to the language of Black.  I am not entirely convinced of his hypothesis, but it most certainly was interesting enough that I’m still giving some consideration to it, especially after seeing Kirk Stoller’s exhibition still standing…sort of at Storefront Bushwick.

I’ve seen Stoller’s work around for a little while now, having had several friends in the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Space Program with him last year.  Through both the regularity of their open studios and the fact that the art community is small and tight-knit, I’ve gotten to know him a bit.  The work was always interesting to me, but the formal choices being made in this exhibition come close to that perfect storm where everything is just dead-on.  Initially, I was struck by the decisions both of the physical objects being displayed and the consideration of their placement.  For an exhibition of sculptural work, it was really surprising that such a small amount of floor space was being occupied.  The openness of the exhibition allows you to move freely through the space, exploring the works as they relate to the architecture of the gallery.  This coincidentally made for a much safer opening night event, such that none of the works were stepped on or bumped into (at least while I was there), and that’s definitely a concern since the gallery can get pretty busy during events.  But it was this incredibly spare presentation that made me think about the aforementioned conversation regarding places of origin. I know Stoller is currently in-between San Francisco and New York, but I will have to make a point of asking about the landscape of his formative years when next I see him.

As for the works themselves, Stoller is really making a solid and engaging impact with an economy of means.  His material choices include quite a bit of wooden elements and other industrial or processed materials which ride the line between appearing either salvaged/repurposed or newer, generating an interesting and engaging mix of visual texture.  Sometimes contrasting the natural weathering of plywood or wood trim with a brightly painted or manufactured monochromatic element to create a sense that parts of the object may have had a past life of sorts and are now being reinvented within the sculpture.  Going back to the notion of one’s immediate surroundings informing their aesthetic choices, many elements in Stoller’s repertoire remind me of driving past old barns in the countryside where, unlike the bright reds that cartoons and children’s books would have you believe they are comprised of, I always experienced the severely distressed  black/grey wood with a yellow ghost-text for “Mail Pouch Tobacco” on the side. So this mix of raw finish along with the more pristine chromatic choices in these works really affected me on a visceral level, deep in the primitive recesses of my lizard brain.

I’m not yet certain if one should refer to Stoller’s works as Sculptures, Arrangements, or Assemblages because they do tend to defy the natural order of our system of classification for such objects.  This is possibly due in part to his formal art education being more focused on Painting than on that of sculpture, I can’t say for certain.  Nonetheless, there is more than a slight weirdness to them, a wonderful mystery which creates a certain gravity, and gives the appearance of instability.  The potential that a tenuous stack of small plywood blocks could fall to the floor and disappear completely from the realm of sculpture, entering into the language of debris, gives the work a sense of impermanence, or temporality.  Coupling this method of construction/arranging with the material choices has resulted in an incredibly considered presentation of works which while quiet, are firm statements in and of themselves.

These pieces discuss the movement of time objectively, allowing the old and new to come together in fragments.  This causes us to consider the what was, what is, and what will be all around us along with how these objects in their current incarnations may be different in another 10, 20, or 50 years.  Additionally, our reading of them will transform as we develop our own individual patinas and grow more weathered ourselves with each passing moment.  In that way, these objects function to both memorialize the old and new, acting as a document of this immediate moment when we stand before the work.  Experiencing the myriad pasts, presents, and potential futures, in that brief period before they tumble to the floor and onto their next moment.

Vincent Como

Kirk Stoller, Storefront Bushwick

Kirk Stoller: Untitled (Rectangle), 2012, Wood, Plexiglass, Paper, Paint (Resin, Latex), 18 x 1 x 4 inches

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Written by presenttensecriticism

April 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm

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