Friday, December 28, 2012

The One That Got Away: Christopher Astley

Of the exhibitions that I visited this past year and blogged about there was one show that I forgot to post.  "Mayhap", an exhibition of Christopher Astley's new sculptures, collages, and paintings at Leo Koenig in Chelsea, was on view from May 24th to June 30th of this year.  I first saw Christopher's art in a glass window display near Chinatown and SoHo in 2010.  What struck me about his work then and now is the curiousness of form, texture, and color of these little pillow and bag-like sculptures.  I love them!

These anthropomorphic mostly "concrete-filled fabric bags" remind me of Phillip Guston’s painted pink clunky forms piled up and stretched along a distant horizon.  It's primarily the bulkiness of form and distressed surface texture that excites the artist in me so much.  But the exhibition I saw in June also contained two-dimensional work that I was not at all familiar with.  

His photographic collages of numerous sculptures crammed into the frame and the sheer quantity of his sculptures packed into the tight gallery space detracted from the strengths of his sculpture by kind of “pop-ifying” the work.  By "pop-ify" I mean to make cute and turn these otherwise odd and sophisticated individual objects into commodities like mass produced toys piled up at a display in a mall.  Also, the slick and clean surface of his two-dimensional work I thought didn't mesh well with the tactile, worn, and tattered feel of his concrete and fabric sculpture.  I'm curious to see what direction Christopher Astley takes his art next.

Here is an excerpt from the Mayhap press release...
Highlighted by large-component sculptures made up of concrete-filled fabric bags, Christopher Astley’s work provides a metaphorical antidote to the lightning-fast environment in which most of us find ourselves. Grounded in the notion of thought as a diverse series of closed systems and pattern recognitions, and stressing the importance of novelty, Astley’s constructions take the form of walls, but are neither barriers nor boundaries. Greatly influenced by emergence theory, whereby complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions, Astley’s arrangements are dependent upon a few simple relational assemblages and go on from there. Though the objects are of formidable weight and volume, individually, they seem almost buoyant and animated by the fabrics that contain them. Seemingly unmoving, the shapes in their nearly figurative arrangements reveal a slowly shifting lexicon, strangely both whimsical and adamant.
Astley’s directives when making his sculptures are only loosely built around manipulating form. Often sewing the bags that hold the concrete, Astley fills each one with the mixture and allows the curing process to partially assist in the creation of the individual shapes. Irresistibly tactile, sometimes the results are within the realm of expectation. Other times, the results are completely unanticipated, bending unevenly to the rules of gravity, chemical reaction, and time. It is the surprising event that Astley is striving for. Though patterns are established by arranging the individual bags, nothing is ever pre-arranged in the artists mind. Like water seeking its own level, Astley’s constructions often seem to seek their native resting place, as if the forms themselves are territorially prescient.

***FYI I seemed to have lost my pictures of Mayhap so the images 
included here I borrowed from the Leo Koenig website.

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