Breaching Frames: Jeff Feld at Fresh Window

06/28/2015 1:03 PM |
Photograph by Paul D'Agostino.

In A.F.O.T.D.T.D., Brooklyn artist Jeff Feld’s visually disjunctive, conceptually cohesive solo exhibition at Fresh Window Gallery (through July 26th), the artist presents viewers with a most curious, at first glance perhaps slightly humorous spread of objects that are now familiar, now fundamentally other. On a deeper level, the same pieces also operate as so many metaphors for critically damaged, if not utterly broken, states of affairs—and for how certain modes of communication, commerce, identity and conviviality, or simply life in general, seem to increasingly become, under the ever-questionable banner of progress, quite thoroughly gutted.

The acronymic title for Feld’s show is worth drawing out: A.F.O.T.D.T.D., i.e. A Failure of the Day to Day. While that might initially scan like a subtly jocular, quasi-self-deprecating half-step both toward and away from artistic affirmation, it’s actually not that at all. What it is, rather, or at least could be, is Feld’s all-but-blatant declaration that his cleverly conceived, nimbly crafted artworks—idling about in variable states of, if not quite failure, most candid desuetude—are a series of portrayals of futility as suggestive phantoms of utility. His sculptures, for instance, include an elliptically looped, mixed-media cast of a partially deflated innertube, suggesting all at once an absent tire, wheel, bike and rider; a cast of a recognizably useless little doorstop rendered gently useful by a busted chunk of cast brick perched atop it, their functional duality making nearly audible the door-powered slide of the doorstop, used by itself, along a floor or carpet; and an almost spatially aggravating, nominally befuddling piece—appropriately titled Things that can’t be avoided at all costs—consisting of a hefty lump of concrete that seems to have accidentally snagged a mirror-less ‘mirror’ of sorts in its grasp. Thoughtfully positioned near the entrance to the gallery, this latter piece does an excellent job of preparing you for the ultimate weirdness, despite all familiarities, of the other objects you’ll encounter. At the same time, depending on how you peer through and circumnavigate it, it also provides a framed perspective for the other works on display—while calling attention to how many of those other pieces feature, too, frameworks of various sorts. Words and letters, including several iterations of the pawn-shop-vernacular expression, “we buy gold,” appear as cut-out stencils or stencil-formed shapes; a clothes-less clothing rack stands strangely festooned with a ring of somewhat forlornly festive pennants cut, it seems, from vinyl shopping bags; a wax cast of a candle holder includes the nubby stub of a spent candle, its once greater form hinted at by the sooty gradient hovering above it. The simple functions of simple objects—now missing certain guts—have been bizarrely altered, or have perhaps expired.

In Feld’s taut, conceptually rich show, quotidianity is amiss, signifiers are jarred, utilities are compromised or dashed, and fallible states of matter become stand-ins for failed statuses-quo. The artist’s hinted-at pawn shops, perhaps shuttered or barely in operation, underscore the weakness of precarious prosperities. A color photograph of a photographic backdrop is also an image of a felicitously blue sky that has been extensively trampled upon. Out of such implements and ideas, Feld has created a winsome world of near-worldly things that, on the one hand, no longer work, yet on the other hand work things out by working, aesthetically, together. This, perhaps, is an implication of the pieces’ broader, societally inflected framework. Feld’s phantoms of utility, futilities aside, have plenty of heart, and hearts keep hope alive. That said, this is all exhibited on the floor and walls of a handsome gallery called Fresh Window, which has no windows and resides in a basement in a post-industrial building—in a neighborhood that is not (yet) entirely post-industrial. Sometimes interpretive frameworks quickly breach—meaningfully or not, usefully or not—their own frames.

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Photograph by Paul D'Agostino. Photograph by Paul D'Agostino