1.7 / Review

bOnniE i LovE (can) YOu, cAn i sEE yOu saT or SuN LovE jiM

By Bruno Fazzolari January 26, 2010

Snapshot of San Francisco’s Valencia Street before the dot-com boom of the late ’90s: storefronts occupied, if occupied at all, by random ventures, light industry, printers, upholstery shops, and quite a few marginal antique or junk shops. “Mid-century modern” had not yet entered the vernacular, but these shops were full of it, and it was cheap (if broken). They were also chock-a-block with an addled array of Victoriana, hideous furniture, oceans of dust, and a baffling amount of half-repaired things. Sometimes they were called “tweak shops,” since a few appeared be run by meth users who used speedy energy to scavenge and lamely “restore” their things. 

As times changed, such shops were replaced by restaurants, coffee roasters and high-end junk shops. Several of these recently moved onto the block with Jack Hanley’s Valencia Street Gallery, and so walking into Andy Coolquitt’s show, it’s easy to think, if only for a moment, that you have entered yet another mid-century furniture showroom, this one specializing in home lighting with a sort of Eames-storage unit-flavor. But a closer look reveals a remembrance of tweak shops past.

Coolquitt collects materials for his sculptures from the streets and vacant lots of Austin and New York. Several of his pieces recombine found pipes and conduit to make light fixtures and illuminated sculptures. Many of these are simple affairs: colorful segments of tubes creating verticals with incandescent bulbs at top and bottom. The bottom bulb rests on the floor with the whole of the sculpture leaning precariously against a wall.  Two constructions hang from the ceiling, one resembling a pendant light fixture, the other a low-budget Jean Prouvé lamp. The DIY ethos of it all has a bit of ’70s hippie charm. It also recalls André Cadere’s barres; but, unlike Cadere, the practice doesn't involve a performative intervention. 

Coolquitt has mentioned that some of his materials are gleaned from “crack spaces”—undeveloped, interstitial urban lots where people gather to smoke crack cocaine [1]. The title of this show is taken from a piece that features a love letter written on a cardboard box that Coolquitt found in such a space. 

"bOnniE i LovE (can) YOu, cAn i sEE yOu saT or SuN LovE jiM" Installation View. Courtesy of Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco.

Other works merely reference these spaces, without adding light bulbs, and don’t invoke domesticity or modern furniture design at all. In B&W (2009), a thin strip of Plexiglas leans against a wall, upon which is mounted an array of scavenged BIC® lighters. In Omar's Last Pack (2009), a plastic bag full of empty cigarette boxes hangs from a piece of rebar. Materially, these works are in the terrain of B. Wurtz and Tony Feher, but Coolquitt doesn’t pursue the same kind of exhilarating formal inquiry as those two artists do. These works rely on a kind of slumming exoticism derived from the artifacts they incorporate.

Overall, Coolquitt’s sculptures reflect the life of material goods and the ways in which objects (and neighborhoods) are recycled from the low- to the high-end. The work isn’t so much about value or exchange as it is gleaning and recycling. The best sculptures here are those that occupy the indeterminate space between salvaged items, design, sculpture, conceptual gesture, and eccentric activity. It’s hard to know how to take them, and that seems to be the point. They have an undemanding, easy-going style, which still makes it clear that each turn of phrase in their construction is deliberate, and each double entendre is intentional.  The quirkiness and confusion of categories is unsettling—in a very laid-back sort of way.


"bOnniE i LovE (can) YOu, cAn i sEE yOu saT or SuN LovE jiM" is on view at Jack Hanley Gallery through Feb 15, 2010.



[1] http://andybetablog.blogspot.com/2009/04/andy-coolquitt-interview.html

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