“The Tools” at Root Division

by Admin on 01/16/2014

Root Division’s current group show, The Tools examines an aspect of the creative process perhaps many wouldn’t think too much about, but has a significant impact on the final results. That is, not only how the artist might implement and facilitate the use of objects, machines or mechanisms and which types or kinds in the creation of their art, but also the artist’s perspective on the utility of their own work. The show retaliates against the notion of a tool as primarily a subordinate object in which to aid a true task at hand. Root Division’s exhibition examines how the object in which is utilized may be also considered a part of the artwork itself, an extension of the artwork’s creative intentions. The show examines what tools, or any object whose usefulness is defined by what tasks it can help accomplish, artists have constructed or used in executing their artwork, along with how possibly the artwork itself may function as a creative tool.

The Tools has been curated by Nora Rodriguez to explore these ideas in two parts. In the first, the exhibition displays utensils, models and devices alongside the completed artworks which artists have specifically made to enhance, or to make their working process possible. In this way, these types of tools confuse borders that artists and audiences may have hitherto delineated between unfinished and finished product, and the end of the creative process. To Rodriguez it begs the questions, “How does preparation for work become part of the piece itself?” and “How are aesthetic concerns manifest even before an artist touches the “final” piece?” Local artist Rachel MacFarlane’s paintings alongside her small fragile sculptures she creates to inform style, color, and composition of her paintings are some of the best examples for these ideas. These models have never before been exhibited. Even more intriguingly, the cross-media influence between her found art sculptures’ fragile nature and the exuberance manifested in paintings is worth a deeper look.

The second part of the show includes artwork that actually functions as a tool. These artworks borrow aesthetic markers of more technical objects, which again blurs the differentiation between objects made and objects made to make. It also positions these artworks directly into longtime art-historical discussions and criticisms on the purpose or utility of art and what is its usefulness, if there is indeed any. Mie Hørlyck Mogensen exhibits works from her “Survival Regalia” series in The Tools that, much like her other artworks, the human body and object directly engage with and influence each other. During the opening, Mogensen stood next to her installation in the back of the gallery space and explained to her audiences the cures and conveniences her artwork could offer them. The object meant to represent a suitcase resting on the floor to which she referred was filled with disparate handmade and colorful objects that looked more like forms found in a Miro painting, were purported could perform various functions more metaphysical than practical. These fix-all cures for common and uncommon problems were injected with a bit of humor. Alongside the suitcase is a sculptural object that certainly couldn’t be used in the way Mogensen instructs: to place the ball inside one’s mouth and the rings around the ears so that you may be reminded, she says, to speak less and listen more.

Intriguingly, throughout the exhibition artist participants, there are actually some artists whose work respond to both parts of the exhibition, or at times perhaps blurs the line between either. Root Division Studio Artist Evan Barbour’s artistic process, which includes catching live water organisms and animals as subjects for his watercolors, creates an interesting link between the artist, the artistic procss, and the natural environment. His artworks informs audiences about their immediate environs through these biological studies. Additionally, Barbour’s tools: altered fishing nets, traps, and aquariums form a striking sculptural installation on the wall adjacent to his artworks and should deepen the audience’s appreciation of his intricate pieces. While the initial purpose of the nets is to capture subjects for his artwork,  the tools as well as the process of using them and making are as important to Barbour as their contents.

The Tools will be at Root Division, 3175 17th Street through January 25.