Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Unfinished Business

In recent times we have been made aware that society as we perceived it was not entirely as it seemed, the global financial crisis has made us question whether not just our economies but our lifestyles and activities are sustainable. A look along the streets we live can throw up interesting contemporary artefacts that show progress or growth as we imagined it stalled and inert. But amongst the remnants of failed development is traces of human activity, unfinished and unpolished edges and surfaces abound within derleict or abandoned sites, vacated businesses and unfinished developments which appear between construction and dereliction. With these conditions around us Oscar Tuazon’s art seems even more poignant when we see his work in the context of our present economic woes, Tuazon’s work in most cases takes the simple materials of the built environment and constructs sculptures which appear with scratches, drips, cracks, gouges and traces of dereliction within the sculptural language of minimalism. In the David Roberts foundation Tuazon’s specially commissioned series of works appear bold and attractive in all their grungy beauty. The first piece you see when entering the gallery is titled “Glassed Slab” in a steel frame sheets of different materials are vertically layered at intervals, a smashed pane of security glass, plexiglass, fibreglass, wire mesh and bubblewrap all held in place with short scraps of wire and oozing smudges of silicone. A brutal scavenged object manufactured from disordered urban detritus appears as a beautiful but ordered post-minimalist structure.

Loose contextual glimpses of our modern world through everyday materials become even more poignant in the sculptural piece in the middle of the main gallery, “Wall” is similarly constructed but in this case plexiglass sheets are pushed into place and held by oozing bursts of smeared silicone. On the surface of the sheets are irregular slicks of oily black paint, in places thick and glossy, others sparse and matt. At its sparsest spreading as if disturbed by a chemical reaction similar to detergent on a slick of oil on water, at these moments of scarcity views accross the gallery and the window to the street outside are glimpsed as moving people outside cross our line of sight and our thoughts are dragged to the outside world. “Wall” becomes not so much a barrier that screens us from sight but a screen in which we view the passing of immediate time, the solidity of a wall becomes something more fluid and fragile.

The balance between one state and another appears solidly in Tuazon’s work. The references of beauty and ugliness appear as two faces of the same coin in the piece “The Moon” as we see the irregular and ill formed spontaneity of sheets of cast concerete juxtaposed with slick and clean marble. One cant help the minds thoughts turning to modern architecture and the dialogue between form and function.
In Tuazon’s only wall based piece the papercrete aggregation of grey mushed paper sits within the confines of an oak frame, on first glance this mushy aggreagtion seems to be an irregular and unreadable of mush of grey tones but amongst this collective visual scream are glimpses of a clear noticible word, we see the occasional burst of discernible language shouting loud and clear like voices heard clearly in a mass of white noise.

At the back of the gallery a Steel girder punches through a wooden block and a plexigalss screen, at the intersection where these materials meet and the screen and block are punctured we see a square cut in both materials that appears functional but with irregularities that the process of penetrating the materials has created. The hole in the Plexiglass is slightly cracked under the pressure of the creation of the hole and the wood is frayed and torn at some edges, at its manufacture this sculpture which is designed and controlled in its execution allows the flaws of the material to remain evident not hidden. The human hands creative control gives way to the forces and abilities of the material to react to the artists touch in its own unique and idiosyncratic way.

Two further works in the gallery downstairs appropriate more found materials, blocks of wood with frayed, split edges and gouged cuts, glowing flourescent lights that emanate a flat slightly disturbing light into the darkened gallery, oozing and smeared traces of silicone. Functional steel bolts, residues of paint, cracked and scratched surfaces of plexiglass and protruding nails. The forms and processes of manufacturing and construction of Tuazon’s sculptures are not superior or subordinate to each other but collect together as materialised physical poems of our present times.

Minimalism often seemed to deny the existence of humanity in the appearance of its clean scupltural forms but in Oscar Tuazon’s modern interpretation of the minimalist language we see a world in which we need not deny the effect our actions have caused and the traces of degradation and destruction that are left at the scenes of our failures can give us hope to reclaim from the wreckage of our mistakes a renewed and reformed future.

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