Monique Lacey: Puffery at Gray Contemporary - Jamey Hart
The inside always determines the outside. The ever-present force of gravity, weight, and time, which bears on the external, in turn changes the internal. This cycle continues, invisibly, within the world of all things. When an object reflects this, something happens that is hard to find words for. Lacey’s freestanding behemoths and wall reliefs are no exception.
Puffery pairs two works together in a kind of staring contest between painting and sculpture. I find myself wondering whether this is a marriage or a standoff. The architectural scale in the floor sculpture from which the exhibition is titled prompts a constant negotiation between the viewers body and the object. The absorbent surface of the work blurs the sharp planes of the structure, leading me to think that this might be a soft object, though I know it can’t be. All Hat and No Cattlehangs directly across from Puffery. Formally, the objects rhyme with one another, pairing them briefly, until you choose to turn your back on one or the other. The crushing of the form creates a circle of activity within the composition and could be said to reveal something about the nature of the material object. However, as it hangs in the space of painting, I am prepared to be fooled.
Looking longer and closer brings gifts. Process becomes clearer. Cardboard boxes seem stacked to build a form that is made of mostly air. Some kind of tarpaulin is used to cover the structure. Plaster is spread upon the form, further distorting the entire object through natural occurrences of gravity, incident, and the subtle pressure of the hand working the surface. The indentations, collapses, cracks, and crevices that form the entirety of the aesthetic experience are the natural failures of a material and a hand at their limits.
Through some synthesis of these things however, in addition to the use of scale and space as active components, the objects seem to wave in and out from physical reality. They trade their material fact for some magical strangeness that defies gravity, like the levitating mountains of Magritte. It becomes unclear of whether the objects are being crushed by weight, or if they are expanding, like inflatable rafts or castles. This visual experience is not linear. You don’t start with the earthly and end in the clouds. The dreamlike hovering is repeatedly and almost infinitely disrupted by evidence of weight, bouncing back and forth between the two realms.
Material is never treated as a stage to hold meaning in these objects. Rather, material and meaning is intrinsically linked in a dialectal relationship that cannot be separated without one or the other ceasing to exist. To achieve this balance is not a simple task. I am still uncertain how it happens. Objects that find a place to exist in the space between seeing and naming, image and object, warm and cold, always hold my attention in a way that is different from when they are one or the other. It is a slower and more murky reception that sometimes arrives as a daze. It is enhanced by multiple viewings and interactions that form together to make something clearer and more pointed. By following a logic out to its end, there is a realization that there is no end there. The point widens again and the mystery seems to remain unsolved. For now, a handful of disparate thoughts that still fail to describe: the reusable and mutable body, skeleton, scaffolding, shelter, pufferfish.