A Touch of Gold
By Daniel Morowitz
The golden ratio can break down a rectangle into an almost infinite number of squares. Unlimited in its application, artists and architects held this ratio as the standard of composition for thousands of years. A building takes on different meanings depending on how the space is utilized. The rooms inside, the placement of objects within, can be utilized in an almost infinite number of ways. Barring disaster, these spaces offer the promise of permanence, familiarity that draws you in and keeps you through a mixture of comfort and memory. A building however transcends its own space when function can meet disaster and suddenly the memory of the place is rewritten anew; ArtHouse in Jersey City offers a transcendent revision of its gallery space with Ecco Domus. Headed up by Curators and founders Arthur Bruso & Raymond E. Mingst, with Curation by Enrico Gomez of the Dorado Project, and Following the wake of a burst pipe that flooded the gallery rendering it unusable, Ecco Domus presents a diverse grouping of artists challenging what building design and function mean in the context of a freshly renovated space.
Art House Productions gallery, located in Jersey City, features a large carpeted floor-space and drop ceiling, edging between building lobby and white box. The area is more familiar than a traditional gallery space; the atmosphere is reminiscent of an office waiting room and helps set the mood of a functional interior. The worked ranged from 2-D framed pieces to 3-D sculptural floor and wall pieces, arranged to utilize every inch of the space, a column in the middle of the room even broke up the layout to fit better inside a golden rectangle than just as an open plan. Knowing that the space had recently been renovated from a burst pipe, the inclusion of a piece utilizing a copper pipe diagonally hung against a wall, seemed fitting to include. The 2-D works read as an architectural narrative of the space, starting with two prints carved out with images of classical Greek architecture adorned in the edges with gold leaf. Simultaneously this read as the past and the future, how the history of architectural harmony still informs the visual process of construction and art making, while simultaneously pushing a new medium and material forward. The gold leafing further added an interior light when gilded within the drawing and pays homage to the importance of the interior space. This lead me to a discussion with artist Jeremy Coleman Smith about his work, a cardboard shield with a wood-grain print, printed on top, as well as cardboard shelves containing styrofoam plates with family photos and wall paper patterns printed on top of those. There is an element of nostalgia running through the cardboard work; printed on top is a wood-grain pattern similar to interior paneling and creating the illusion of a more highly valued material like finished hardwood. The play on value extends through the cardboard and Styrofoam, materials used in packaging objects of greater importance becomes the object. Production follows a similar path, items are packaged in cardboard boxes covered in prints, the labored method of shipment and display contributing to our throw away culture, a critique on the value of art and design as exalted as it can be in the white cube, its just as easily cast aside. While playing on these narratives of production, the addition of familial motifs by Coleman Smith interjects a personal investment into the quotidian looking objects, elevating his Styrofoam plates into fine china and the shield into a family crest, status symbols worth more than their weight in gold.
Joy Curtis, another exhibiting artist, presents a different sculptural folly to be heralded not in its grandeur, but the awareness as a building block. Pyrite Louis XV Chassis is a floor sculptural work and like its name reflects gold in its acrylic mirror base. Pyrite itself is fools gold, growing geometrically, the sculpture sits on a base of stacked cubes supporting a white fiberglass abstraction. Joy is sculpting out of cornices and molding, bringing to the forefront the flourishes of architecture. A staple in more baroque design, the molding accenting a room loses favor in modern architecture. Joy brings it back into the modernist cube of the gallery space through the means of freestanding sculpture, quickly valuing the accent as art, however displacing the utilitarian architectural element relating to room design. Much like the shimmer of pyrite, this is fools gold, seductive in its sculptural form, but aware that its value is inherently different from the original molding. Much like a structure, the freestanding sculpture offers the invitation of multiple perspectives, a way to reorient oneself both around the piece and around the room.
Although at the end of its run, Ecco Domus, in the same effect as the recent construction on the space, offered a revision of Art House. While Architecture and construction utilize minimalist visual languages of blue prints and lines to change a layout, the selection of the pieces included ran a visual line through gallery, both a way to bring the viewer into the show and layout the future potential for the art space. The theme of ancient mathematics may have infused the pieces as individuals, but the real golden ratio at work was a group of strong artists, strong curators, and a space that could house an exceptional show.