Originally Published on Carets and Sticks, October 28th, 2014


Stepping into the expansive gallery space, a bed of black woodchips recalls a familiar Ghebaly experience circa Patrick Jackson’s exhibition, Third Floor. Cursing the wobbly 3 inch heels underfoot, and the full beer in hand, one must navigate through the rugged terrain in order to properly view the large cool-hued paintings that flank the walls. An armless blue mannequin sits on a matching blue bench in the center of the vacuous space, creating a haunting yet easily dismissible presence. As an aside, it seems that along with offbeat flooring choices, monochrome clothed mannequins are also a common theme around here.

Sayre Gomez is a painter. The exhibition houses 10 plus large scale works by the artist, each one eye catching with its marbled texture or hazy paint application. The best of the bunch shoot towards  moody De Chirico-esque landscapes; in Remember that Building that Collapsed in Harlem Last Year?, a small outdoor picnic table is depicted in a dark fog, dwarfed by the large shadowy building that looms above it, the dreary clouds parting to expose a blustery moon. Windows are a repeated theme across a few of the canvases, yet each piece is approached with a different logic–Gomez bounces between atmospheric abstraction and surrealist representation. This indecisiveness is furthered by the swath of purple and blue hues across the series, undercutting whatever conceptual rigor may exist in the body of paintings. Like picking color swatches at the Behr kiosk at Home Depot, it seems Gomez is going for a matchy-matchy feng shui, further evidenced by the blue drenched mannequin that is seated center stage.

Historically installation works were birthed to evade and counter market driven artworks (think Womanhouse, 1972, or Earth Room by Walter de Maria, 1968). Here however, it seems that the evocation of “installation” is an attempt to conceptually legitimize a show of otherwise large market friendly paintings. Each painting will likely be sold discreetly, the woodchips (which are accoutrement to the room) will end up in the dumpster. It is clear that Gomez is trying on some different hats with this exhibition, rather than simply installing paintings in a white walled gallery space.

One such hat is the sound installation: awkwardly protruding from the bed of woodchips are twelve rock shaped speakers, each softly playing a rap anthem, all of which were derived from Mark Zuckerberg’s public Spotify playlist Quest. The playlist is an uninspired grab bag of 2 Chainz, 2-pac, Jay-Z, Kanye, Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G. and Eminem.  When scrolling down the list in Spoitify, one can see a small grey explicit warning adorning nearly all of the tracks on the playlist. Gomez derived the show title “I’m Different” from the 2 Chainz song by the same title, which plays at a markedly louder volume than the rest, and features some of the more misogynistic lyrics of the group of twelve.

To further traverse down the “open source” rabbit hole, Gomez hired the design group Struggle Inc. to create the series of banners that adorn the exposed brick wall of the gallery. Apparently Gomez gave the design team total control over content and the design of the banners, making the use of familiar marbled texture and and Nirvana reference a wonderful coincidence.  The text on the series of posters is sourced from English translated Lorem Ipsum, a dummy Latin text that designers often use when creating layouts. When I performed my own Google translate of five paragraphs of Lorem, I came across such comical gems as: “Tomorrow grab my orange shorts soft balls,” and the ever poetic, “Tomorrow is not just a lot of soft cotton.” While reading through the five paragraphs of garbled phrases and words, themes of consumerism, digital interfaces, and political control eerily emerge, although the lack of connective words cause these themes to quickly lose any sentiment.

As one steps into the adjacent gallery (which is described in the press release an the interior to the wood chipped room’s exterior), Gomez continues with his hat fitting. In Generation Gap, two phrases appropriated from a Beatles and Nirvana song respectively, sit atop each other, reading in opposite facing directions. The words “All you need is love” and “I hate myself and I want to die” can be seen in a garish Marker Felt font, battling each other with yin-yang sentiments over  a blue marbled canvas. The piece Uww (Untitled Window Work) consists of an architectural salvage type window installed directly into the gallery wall. A layer of drywall has been removed where the window is nested, and behind one’s own reflection and finger smears on the glass, the inner layers of insulation and 2X4 studs can be dimly seen behind the glass. This piece is the painter’s second insistence of the show being an installation: attempting to involve the “space” of the gallery with a Burden-esque inclusion of the gallery wall on the materials list.

Gomez takes risks with this exhibition: pushing outside of the format of painting + wall = art, and moving towards something more complicated and experiential. Yet, the seesaw between various art historical languages in this exhibition is exhausting. Midcentury design, surrealism, found object, fetish finish, tromp l’oeil, net art, romanticism, and conceptual installation are all present at the table, but their conversation is forced and unclear. Gomez is adept at offering an array of send ups (cultural, art historical, and visual), but he doesn’t seem present to catch their fall.  Like lorem ipsum, the crucial connecting phrases and words have been garbled.




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