There were two Webster art events last weekend; Leslie Mutchler and Jason Urban’s “Ordinal Solid” was opening on Friday, and “Adorn or Disfigure,” the student gallery, was the following night.
It was more of an event than a typical art gallery. If run during the 1960s, all it would have needed are a few dancers and mod haircuts and we would have a happening. It was not a happening in that sense, although a lot was happening there. Mixed Media was blasted across the room; rocks, plants, and walls of text adorned (remember that word, it is important later) the small space, a single white room. This small room led to an even smaller room, which was dimly lit, playing a surreal film clip: a woman wearing pink finger gloves, reading a printed copy of Borges’ Library of Babel.
The disfigured books were key here; much of the walls were also covered in clippings from various books, ranging from Calvino to Murakami. Some of the words in the clippings were redacted, censored, or distorted.
A motif found both in the book clips and the walls was a stamp that read: WORD, IMAGE, ACTION, ORIENTATION, in a descending rectangle, a post modern take of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It appears a few times around the room, each time everything is crossed out except for one word. The word left unmarked varied each time.
In the middle of the room, a large wooden cross layed bolted to the floor, each area of the cross featured an interesting item like rocks, documents, screenshots off an old desktop to name a few.
The exhibition played incredibly well as the deconstruction of the organization of a library, and the meaninglessness of human organization when in comparison to the vastness of space.
Next came “Adorn or Disfigure”. The event came prefaced by a famous Frederick Douglass quote, “Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, photographs, and electrotypes, good and bad, now adorn or disfigure all our dwelling”.
The event lived up to the quote. Everywhere the spectator looked, there were daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, photographs, and electrotypes, good and bad, but mostly good. Standouts included a three piece installation of distorted wood, created by Marshall Beau Wilcox, Untitled (landscape), and the haunting photography of Krista Valdez titled Intersection, Perception, and Distortion.
The centerpiece of the entire night was the cigarette fueled monstrosity that was David Pulphus’ sculpture, Tires, Paint, Cigarette Filters. The piece was a beaten down tire, a vase filled with discarded bottles and a deflated basketball with sad eyes painted onto it. A hand gripping a gun was in there too, the view of it partially obstructed by the bottles. It is joined by his The Thought Process, spelling out, in cigarettes, DISCRIMINATION IS MY CANCER.
The piece evokes Sigmar Polke’s disturbing Why Can’t I Stop Smoking, from the St. Louis Art Museum, but trading Polke’s sparse detail and minimalistic impulses, we are given everything: a stream of consciousness of trash, a loud and brash testament to the ruination of materials and the destruction of youth.
“Ordinal Solid” runs from Feb. 2 to March 9, open to the public Tuesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Adorn or Disfigure” ran on Saturday, Feb. 3 and will stay open until Fe. 28.