Kirsten Reynolds: A Former Mistake
Art New England, Feb/Mar 2009
Currier Museum of Art
Manchester, New Hampshire
November 2008 - February 2009
By Craig Stockwell
The Currier Museum has dedicated space in their new Putnam Galleries to an ongoing series of NH/New England artist’s installations. The first to be presented is Kirsten Reynolds. Reynolds has filled the space with an exuberant tumble of painted/printed panels and lumber that resembles a haywire construction site but hides as much as it shows.
This work refers to the current wave of “scatter sculpture” that was captured in the opening exhibit at NY’s New Museum last year and also plays off of the purism of Minimalism. Scatter sculpture is a curious blend of furious and unbound random materials that tends to coalesce into (ironically) rather austere formalist art. It has become a way for formalism to sneak back into the conversation in disguise, leaving narrative outside the door. Reynold’s work is in this vein but there are differences. Her work is very carefully constructed, the craft is exacting, unlike the relentless (apparent) sloppiness of the NY work. Reynold’s work speaks of the great fun of the act of making and fooling the eye and the senses and creating relationships of shifting planes. This work responds to the memory of the rigorous male Minimalism of the 60s. That work was based on fidelity to materials and process. This work tells lies and messes with our perception of process. The two-by-fours that support the structure are often real, but more often just Styrofoam stand-ins. There are plywood panels, but most of the panels are foam-core. Everything is made to look like real wood, thus there is obvious intention towards creating artifice here. And, by extension there is an effort to debunk the rigid intentions of Minimalism.
This installation would seem to be calling for a formalist response, the lines, shapes, shifting angles and colors all add up to an intelligent and contemporary way to construct a visual experience. But there are these curious objects scattered around the ground and tucked in the corners. These are formed and glossily painted objects that appear to be: crumpled rags, something plant-like, a mop, and poop. To me this all suggests a lovely weariness and recognition of the futility of all the effort and noise. It does not diminish the work but enhances it with a world-wise knowledge of the fate of grand gestures. And yet, nonetheless, the grand gesture does stand there above and around it, an offering of the possibilities of thoughtful play.