A heartfelt desire for identity in the vacuum of adolescent speculation and distrust, the challenge of consumerism toward an ever inclining version of the American dream, and the struggle of the art object in its means toward cultural significance are points that converge in the works by Colby Bird and Joshua Fields. The exhibition is comprised of sculptures, photographs, and works on canvas. This marks the first major New York exhibition for both artists.
The materials and objects engaged by both artists are fundamentally economic and revealing in their nature. Colby Bird’s sculptures find faux-wood covered speaker cabinets, institutional or office grade ceiling tiles, and conventional inexpensive lighting fixtures as their constituents. Through an improvised means these assemblages attempt to achieve a personal version of hip hop inspired grandeur and decadence within an art historical language of minimalist sculpture. Neither is fulfilled ideally, but in their shortcomings is exposed something that neither source can offer alone in terms of sincerity and personalized significance defined by a somewhat haphazard or desperate craft. The materials set to use are in themselves derived from or were once made necessary as commodities by the market that they define; from a middle-class desire for high luxury items of the wealthy but without the financial means to attain them comes the knock-off veneered versions of solid hardwood, the molded glass renditions of Waterford crystal.
The self-scrawled notebook paper epitaph of Kurt Cobain’s suicide note is transformed via an internet acquired image into Joshua Fields’ large scale memorial on canvas. This among other works finds its object or source, not from east coast hip hop culture as does Bird’s work, but from the west coast grunge, punk and metal genres of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The work titled ‘Territorial Pissings’, a photograph documenting the artist’s signature “al fresca” on the snow covered ground, borrows its title from the Nirvana song of the same name and stands as a focal point among Fields’ work in its playfully modest gesture of disobedience. The grunge and punk lyricism of the time found support from a contingent of teenagers that felt dissatisfied and alienated but without a focused point of contention. What could be thought of as a gritty and more pragmatic version of hippydom that grunge seemed to embody in a time that couldn’t seem more distant from the present, is also defining of a generation that witnessed their country being transformed at the same moment that they were coming of age. A generation that wholeheartedly believed the dotcom hype and wanted to believe in their fashionable brand of irony as much as their stock options. …in the end having to cash in both for something more meaningful.
There is on some level something wrong throughout all of this, in the origins from which Bird and Fields emerge, that even Kurt Cobain who actually did achieve his dream of success as a lyricist and musician did so only to realize that he could never enjoy it. The same might be said for those families that find a means to buy a house and send their children to college or even art school, but at the cost of insurmountable debt. Or how the success and achievement via hip hop stardom out of deprived communities can often only show how rare or improbable the odds really are through a distant and nearly unattainable object of ostentatious wealth and luxury that signifies that success. All this it would seem, regardless of success, wealth, or celebrity status, finds a common denominator through drugs and alcohol as seen in Bird’s video incorporated sculpture ‘Royal Crown’ and Fields’ ‘The Birth and Death of Chris Farley’.
Yet within Bird’s and Field’s recycled and simplified means of assembly and re-sampling comes something that sustains itself because it strives not to glorify its source but to pay homage to it along its passage and transformation into something beautiful and poetic.
– Curated by Alex Dodge and Glen Baldridge