We’re familiar with the notion that context dictates whether a fan is an appliance or an objet d’art—whether a desktop background image could hang in an art gallery. Erik Wenzel’s solo exhibition, titled “Fresh Fat,” complexly applies e-commerce, digital dissemination, and the language of social networks to these distinctions. At bottom, he’s asking how the artist should adapt to new technologies of creation and distribution at the level of everyday practice. On the gallery’s east wall, he’s lightly penciled the characters #IRL—online parlance for “in real life”—to serve as a hesitant and tentatively small affirmation of the physical world, composed in Twitterese.
The featured works walk us through the borderlands between art and everyday life, renewing our interest in this well-trodden terrain by commenting on the ways that technology facilitates (and/or complicates) efforts to communicate artistic meaning. A high-resolution photo of a Swiss farm hangs in a digital frame, but is also available for free online download on the gallery’s website. While patrons can invest in “art” by laying down money for a “de-accessioning” of the artist’s groovy multi-colored lamp, handy wood-shelving night table and common oscillating fan, they can alternatively buy the secondhand wares on Craigslist, where the items are also for sale.
Even when digitally mediated, the emotions, connections and familial bonds of the real world can come through. This is one of the assertions of the show’s funny and thoughtful centerpiece, “Industrial Canal.” Wenzel shoots HD video with his iPhone as his father narrates an impromptu car tour of his childhood New Orleans neighborhood. The senior Mr. Wenzel’s expressions of awe at the area’s rapid gentrification (“I thought you’d be impressed, Erik!”) offer the show’s simplest pleasures. They’d be easy fodder for YouTube.
The rest of the show’s commentary on the interrelations and weird intersections of family and political history are too good to spoil. You’ll have to see it for yourself #IRL. (A-J Aronstein)
Through May 5 at 65 Grand, 1369 West Grand