DAVID COHEN, Editor           
       March 2004  

 

Wade Guyton: Objects Are Much More Familiar
Power House
45 E.G.E. Patterson Ave.
Memphis, TN
901 578 5545

17 January - 7 March

By mikewindy

Memphis is a big little town (pop. 600,000) whose art scene is starting to mature. With four art museums, two schools with MFA programs, several established galleries and a handful of alternative spaces, Memphisis cooking. The aptly-named Power House was renovated a year ago. Curated by Peter Fleissig, the venue has quickly become an important part of the Memphis art community.

The Power House is one of those fantastic old buildings that has so much character that it can dominate an artist's work if they aren't careful. Wade Guyton, whose work is currently exhibited there, wisely chose to collaborate rather than compete with the building's interior. His work gives viewers a guided tour of the most interesting parts of the Power House and how those building features relate to his work.

Not the least interesting part of Guyton's exhibit was the announcement card. A much smaller black "X", several hundred yards away, echoed his large black "X" sculpture on the exterior of the building. It was as though Mr. Guyton provided this image as a key to viewing his exhibit. The show, "Objects Are Much More Familiar," explores the relationships between intention and accident, between his work and the interior and exterior of the building, and the relationship of his work to art from the past. In this light, the exhibition announcement gives permission to explore, discover and invent new relationships between the building, the work and the world in which we live.

Most intriguing was a group of drawings in a small dank room off of the south gallery lit by institutional style fluorescent lighting. The walls of this room are the kind in which the Memphis photographer Jeff Morris could find a million abstract compositions. The small drawings were grouped together in large oak frames. Two sheets of plexiglass sandwiched the drawings allowing the wall to become part of the work. The "drawings" themselves are actually inkjet compositions printed on pages torn from a 1948 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) catalogue. Mr. Guyton used the letters "x" and "u" along with various combinations of black lines to give old work new meaning or to cancel (x-out) the meaning all together. One of the drawings in this group is a page with a sculpture on it that Mr. Guyton flipped upside down. The "U" printed on the image suggests that it is the obligation of the viewer as well as the artist to turn art on its ear.

Taking cues from the drawings and announcement card, the rest of the works in the exhibit expound on the conversation Mr. Guyton had with the building. His Bruer chair sculptures referenced the electrical conduit snaking throughout the space. The two lead the viewer to see both as a continuous line drawing whose bends mimic those found in the chairs. A large untitled sculpture employed a 120"long and 42" wide cardboard Sonotube propped up by a small piece of styrofoam. Used for pouring concrete columns, the use of the Sonotube pointed to the sculptural nature of architectural structures. It also literally pointed to a hole in the wall of identical size (42" wide) that bore striking resemblance to the holes cut in buildings by the late Gordon Matta Clark.

Directly across the wall from this hole was a red circle painted on an 18 x 5 foot linen rectangle. Mr. Guyton called attention a chain that hung from the high windows to the floor of the space by hanging the painting only two inches from it. A black "U" also accompanied the red circle, one at the top of the painting and one at the bottom, turned up side down, suggesting that sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. Or was it a reference to Kanaga masks from Africa's ivory coast?

The great part was that these loose interpretations were encouraged. Sure the works seemed serious and conceptual, but there were also traces of humor. "U Sculpture" is a stainless steel "U," polished to a mirror finish, that sits almost at eye level on a walnut veneer plinth. Was Mr. Guyton being sincere, wanting the viewer to realize that we all see ourselves in each other, or was he jabbing at skeptics like Ad Reinhardt before him and asking, "What do U represent?"


mikewindy is a artist, writer and curator living in Memphis, TN.

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