Friday, June 3rd from 5 - 8PM
Samsøn is proud to present Todd Pavlisko’s 1st solo exhibition in Boston, All of Nothing. This exhibition is his 1st as a gallery artist. This compendium of new works is assembled in-whole as a layered and provocative narrative installation where each work is at once autonomous and componential. Woven throughout the space, the sculptures, paintings, drawings and assemblages coalesce into a fantastical fable of triumph and toil, of exploration and contemplation. Pavlisko collapses science into art, art into history, history into comedy, comedy returns to science, and all back around again—circling in the space, a dizzying cosmic dance of both beauty and loaded substance. Do not be seduced by the outright sexiness and bedazzling bling of the exhibition, for amid all the wonderment a simmering pot of content boils beneath the surface.
In the space, we are greeted by some familiar faces, presented in a variety of mediums. Richard Pryor, for example, holds court over the exhibition in a monolithic canvas work made from thousands and thousands of price tag fasteners. The shag-like surface gives the appearance of a great historic tapestry—contradicted by Pryor’s whimsical and rather nerdy pose. The scale of the work demands attention, but the protagonist cannot be taken seriously. In the sculpture All of Nothing, we encounter a marble statue of Carl Sagan, bundled together with a manufacturer’s banding machine and a nebulous cluster of melted bongs. Sagan stoically stands, pointing with purpose a “fan” foam finger that states: “Grey Matter”. Sagan, the “brains” of this operation, appears clouded and cold, removed from his vast knowledge, succumbing to his follies with the great unknown.
In the assemblage, It Loses by Force, we find another conflicted genius, Bobby Fischer. Fischer’s visage is seen in an elegant drawing that, while traditionally framed, is far from traditionally displayed. Within the framed drawing, Pavlisko adds a dangling stream of silver chains clasping a collection of rubies in the rough, pouring out from Fischer’s nose. Fischer appears unaware of the hemorrhaging as he gazes hypnotically at the challenge before him—like Sagan, lost in the recesses of his own brilliance. The framed work leans against the wall and rests atop a vintage weight bench. The bench is an important element to the overall work, adding the suggestions of challenge and strength, of effort and focus. What’s more, this bench (and another like it also used in the exhibition) continues Pavlisko’s propensity for using memorabilia and re-contextualizing notions of “collecting”. Both of these weight benches were once owned and used by Andy Warhol in The Factory, particularly for rehabilitation after being shot by Valerie Solanas. Another “hero” subtly inserted into the mix and furthers the discussion on idolatry and the gluttonous appetite for greatness—a dialogue already happening throughout the installation.
Richard Pryor appears again in a mixed-up diptych that casts the comedian in one painting and, in the paired painting, a related yet contrasted scene from the famous Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. The two large paintings, while conceived of as a diptych, do not hang side-by-side but across from one another. Pavlisko interrupts the convention of a diptych and places the viewer in the middle of the story. Pryor, as one bookend, strikes a pose of madness. And, in the Bosch image, a common trope from that period—the Trickster (as surgeon) is seen with scalpel in hand, cutting-out the so-called “philosopher’s stone” (a metaphor for madness and stupidity) from the seated figure’s head. The gold leafed calligraphic inscriptions decorating the entire surfaces of both panels are themselves lifted from the original source materials. Too, it’s important to note, the jarring reversal of copy—the Pryor phrase accompanies the Bosch image and vice versa. In all this back and forth, we cannot help but see the timelessness of insanity, the difficult cruelty of genius and the sad-but-true comedy of it all.
All told, All of Nothing weaves a complex narrative that puts the viewer (participant, really) in the company of specific characters. The exhibition inserts the players in the midst of our psychology, removing the specificity of their stories and allowing for reflection of our own image to be seen vicariously. Like any good allegory, we’re left to grapple with our daily crossroads. Pavlisko uses these personalities as a vehicle to drive a conversation about striving for and feeding on greatness, competing and working hard, futility and madness, and ultimately how sickly humorous the whole cycle can become (has become). The process of “becoming” should not be missed here. There is transformation all around, both within the works and the experience of the works. Don’t be surprised when the smile on your own face, from your initial encounter, gives way to a somber posture as the installation’s deeper content begins to sink-in.
Kristin Bly, March 2011
Todd Pavlisko is originally from Cincinatti, OH received an MFA from Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh, PA), teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is based in NYC. His work has been exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati, OH & New Orleans, LA), PS1 (NYC) & the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL). His work is in the collections of the City of Naples (IT), the Progressive and Franklin Furnace (NYC).