Shotgun Review

Geometria Concretus

By Glen Helfand September 23, 2012

The mortgage crisis is a dangerous gift to artists; the metaphoric possibilities of an abandoned house, which physically renders the conceptual forces of late capitalism, can easily crumble to visual clichés of home and loss. Call it the poetics of peeling paint. Lucy Puls has recently been investigating this subject, and the ten resulting altered photographs included in Geometria Concretus, at Electric Works, are minimal and elusive but ultimately compelling.

With the covert help of a realtor, Puls managed to get inside numerous foreclosed homes in the East Bay and snap photographs, which she then reworked. In a previous series, she utilized objects possibly scavenged from the houses to create transgressive sculptural gestures that become somewhat literal in light of her current work. Each photograph in Geometria Concretus rests on a beige cast polyurethane armature, a Matthew Barney–esque material that adds a consistent, oddly fleshy layer of support. The images themselves are textured geometric abstractions: architecture rendered spatially off-kilter. The results are like stills from an arty show on the cable channel HGTV, suggesting a fantasy program with considerable appeal.

All of the photographs are single panels; they include images of damaged carpets, wood paneling scrawled with obscenities, and a ceiling dotted with black mold and glow-in-the-dark toy stars. Puls approaches these images with an almost surgical intent: grafting, rutting, sanding, and smoothing them while coating them with gouache and plastic media like spackling. She fills in damaged areas, seemingly priming them for renovation. The gloss of photo print and the contrasting matte skins delineate planes of texture. The seams show as an interim act of reparation. Puls has created a psychic smudging


Lucy Puls. Geometria Concretus (12-26), 2012; photograph, aluminum panel, cast polyurethane, gouache; 23.25 x 18.5 x 3 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Electric Works, San Francisco.

of the bank-owned building while making a humanist gesture toward a heartless financial phenomenon and its uncomfortable aesthetic possibilities.


Lucy Puls: Geometria Concretus is on view at Electric Works, in San Francisco, through October 6, 2012.

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