Both design and art present unique terms for visual and spatial communication. We invent symbols that meet a consensus of indication: a crooked line to signal a staircase, or arrows that direct which way to go. Lacking in humor and poetics, good utilitarian design is intentionally impersonal so that we do not even see the designed object as what it is, but what it does. A direct, pleasing, and focused design therefore yields an invisible object, one so precise and without character that it allows itself to go unacknowledged so that our attention remains dedicated to the task at hand - achieving this disappearing act is the key marker of success. We degrade a design by calling it "poor" if it is too casual, and if it fails in its function it loses its purpose and meaning. Such determined parameters and regulation, regardless of occasional hyper-stylization or slight whimsy, in effect deny the very qualities that could differentiate a thing as art, a realm that, in contrast, will always have a basis in anarchy and challenges such distinctions as "success" and "failure." By warping or upturning an anticipation of functionality and specifically targeting the useful aspects of found materials, the artists in this second edition of Logical Conclusions impart a nobility in the absurd.
The title of Sergio Garcia's twisted tricycle, Its not always easy to tell what's real and what's fabricated, tells all; the creation is a perversion of its original, making impossible the very usability that gives the vehicle its meaning in the first place. Nostalgic associations are inevitable and complement the work's inventive humor. Often playing with deception and double meaning in his other works, Garcia continually presents the puzzles of how, why, and what, leaving all of these unresolved in favor of an aesthetically striking curiosity.
Ethan Greenbaum's sculptures made from packaging refuse or construction materials often consider the gaps and seams of these rarely considered parts, highlighting the features that give these found items their identity and purpose. In works made of Styrofoam packaging material, cement is poured in the ditches and crevices where electronics or other industrially manufactured goods are nestled; in other works cinderblocks are piled or stacked, joined not with the typical sturdy cement but instead with plasticine, a kind of putty used in model making or preparatory studies. In both instances the element that gives the found material its use value or which enables it to function is precisely that which Greenbaum has replaced.
Abstracted nearly beyond recognition, Jon Bocksel's An Invisible Swear Word paintings are composed of typographic characters that are fused and layered to create conflated versions of hypothetical bowdlerized terms. Confronting the instability of language and the corruptibility of symbols, Bocksel creates a new vocabulary of nonsensical albeit uncanny signs that provoke us to consider the arbitrariness of the profane, or where language forms or loses meaning, and what we expect of the symbols we encounter.
Leah Mackin's video of a spinning umbrella top literally turns functionality on its side and twirls it around. As the object spins the center remains unfixed so that light moves freely across the faceted surface. At times the frame is casually disregarded revealing a glimpse of the world, if not the hand, behind this hypnotic curtain. Reminiscent of the formal rigor of her drawings and folded photographs, Mackin's black umbrella is re-imagined as an endlessly revolving and shifting radiant poinis freed of its gloomy associations in favor of a capricious display.
In all of these negotiations a sincere playfulness comes in tandem with careful consideration. Abstracting and skewing the logic of an object's specific functionality, these artists negate an intended value by rendering their subjects useless. However, instead of tools left wasted, these items are (re)drawn into the absurdist realm of art, thereby placing them in a new economy of value, and begging the conclusion: Forget the rules - just have fun.
Lauren van Haaften-Schick is a curator, writer, and artist based in New York City. Curatorial projects include Cancelled at the Center for Book Arts in New York (forthcoming), Spirit of the Signal, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (New York), Get on the Block, Camel Art Space, and Matinee, St. Cecilia's Gallery (Brooklyn). Recent activities include the e-flux Time/Store, Market, Alternative at Trade School (New York), and other events concerning art and economics. She was the founding director of Gallery TK in Northampton, MA and AHN|VHS Gallery and Bookstore in Philadelphia. Lauren received a BA from Hampshire College in 2006.