1.4 / Review

Arthur Allan

By Zachary Royer Scholz December 1, 2009

In light of cooperative creation’s many pitfalls, the success of “Arthur Allan,” is surprisingly refreshing. Developed collaboratively by Brion Nuda Rosch and Chris Sollars, the show not only combines their respective art practices and residential art spaces—Hallway Projects and 667 Shotwell—but also embraces the neighborhood and objects situated between their two homes. The artists cue viewers to the show’s liminal construction through its title, which combines their middle names. “Arthur Allan” includes four connected bodies of work: actions by each artist within the others space, actions linking their two spaces, and actions performed within their shared neighborhood. Together, these related pieces merge into a unified experience that complicates stable notions of space, audience, identity, and authorship.

Brion Nuda Rosch and Chris Sollars. TV on Table, 2009; lunch performance with kitty voices, filmed at Arthur's, shown at Allan's; installation view. Courtesy of the Artists and Hallway Projects and 667 Shotwell, San Francisco.

On view at 667 Shotwell are the works produced by Rosch directly within Sollars’ space. Rosch executed this series of interventions utilizing his signature sparse vocabulary. Constructed from angular scraps of wood and painted bright teal, these gestures range from a monolith installed above the building’s entrance, to various slim architectural elements that protrude from above doors and float mysteriously above the central hallway. These minimalist gestures poetically highlight the space’s physicality even as they alter it. The shifted awareness that these works induce makes all of 667 Shotwell part of the piece: its walls, floors, door handles, light fixtures, and appliances.

Sollars’ works in Rosch’s space similarly engage Hallway Project’s domestic setting, but via performative rather than object-based interventions. In his short videos, which are projected almost life-size in the front room of 667 Shotwell, Sollars slowly reveals his hiding spots within Rosch’s apartment; he gradually emerges from behind a chair, from beneath a couch, and from within a refrigerator. The tension and anticipation these curious actions create in the otherwise placid setting is humorously offset by the unsolicited participation of Rosch’s cats, which invariably sense where Sollars is hiding, and come to say hello.

Brion Nuda Rosch and Chris Sollars. Neighborhood Assemblage, 2009; cardboard, tape, and stereo. Courtesy of the Artists and Hallway Projects and 667 Shotwell, San Francisco.

The fully collaborative works in “Arthur Allan” share many of the elements found in the pieces each artist created separately. In one video—screened on a monitor sitting on Sollars’ kitchen table—both artists sit down to share lunch at Rosch’s kitchen table. In addition to the sounds of the artists eating, one hears the recorded sounds of them cooing in baby voices to their cats. The piece is funny and it is hard not to laugh while watching it, but it also deftly inter-cuts spatial and situational identities.

Rosch and Sollars created the bulk of the collaborative works in Arthur Allan” in the neighborhood that connects their homes and art spaces. Over a few days, the pair wandered through their stomping grounds creating site-specific works from the material they found.

Abandoned furniture, boxes, paint cans, and bed linens, with the help of an occasional piece of tape, became poetic sidewalk arrangements that were just a little too fantastical to have happened accidentally. Presented at 667 Shotwell as documentary prints and a digital slide show, these ephemeral interventions still pulse with the serendipity and playfulness that created them.

Chris Sollars. Chris behind Couch, 2009 (still); performance at Arthur's, shown at Allan's. Courtesy of the Artists and Hallway Projects and 667 Shotwell, San Francisco.

I had the good fortune to come across Rosch and Sollars one of the days they worked in the neighborhood. It was informative to see their process in person, but more wonderfully, my broader perception shifted from witnessing their interventions. Through the rest of the day, I noticed many strange accumulations and occurrences that—although not authored by Rosch and Sollars—would have remained invisible without them.

Rather than a clunky lumbering space of compromise, Sollars and Rosch have created with “Arthur Allan” a collective space where their respective practices can breath, collide, and bear strange fruit. The fun that they had making these works is evident, but even the most laughable moments of cat cooing possess incisive rigor. The projects’ multivalent composition provides an inexhaustible number of relationships and subtleties to explore. Its generous, uninhibited humor makes the task of unraveling its twists and turns an enjoyable one. 

Arthur Allan is on view at 667Shotwell, in San Francisco, through November 13, 2009.

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