“My life and art have not been separated. They have been together.”
—Vanessa Corby, Eva Hesse (2010), “Eva Hesse: Longing, Belonging and Displacement”
“All the best, Kiah Celeste” at Document is a study in the pleasure of letting the world find you. The exhibition consists of works that organize precarity, tension, pleasure and the highly refined skill of navigating beauty and exploration with ease.
“Squared Circle,” the first sculpture with which we’re greeted, sits quietly on the floor. Sand poured through a grid-like structure of some kind is piled neatly upon a transparent glass box, the remaining sand allowed to fall down the side of the form, leaving a dusting of sand at the base—a squared circle. I was informed that this pouring process was to remain a secret. I’m grateful because I prefer to believe it was magic. The glass box then rests upon a square sheet of bullet-proof glass on the floor. The varying tones of phthalo-green industrial glass and reflections of various rectangles, squares and polygons reflect and refract throughout the assemblage.
“Squared Circle” is sand in varying forms. It has lived in the sea, been pushed to the beach, shipped various times and ways, been heated and cooled and shaped, and now it finds itself here. Resting, powerful and triumphant—but gentle. The way only sand can, really.
Celeste uses found materials, such as the glass and sand mentioned above, sourced near (and sometimes even within the building of) her studio in Louisville, Kentucky. “Bum 81” was assembled from fluorescent light bulbs sourced at a recycling facility, and after looking for more, some were indeed found in the post-industrial building her studio inhabits. “Bum 81” is supremely satisfying. At least a dozen bulbs cuddle within a found forklift wheel, the Kelly greens of the bulb extracting the shades of violets and pinks in the wheel. The wheel bears cracks and wrinkles from wear—a delightful contrast to the pristine cool white bulbs. The polished and unsullied nature of the sculpture doesn’t stop Celeste from finding silliness in the work. She jests within the exhibition statement (also beautifully composed) by Natalie Weis, that “Bum 81” is perhaps “a giant cigarette, a loosie for an imaginary giant who lives among the rubble of an abandoned industrial park.” Even the name of the work recalls the delightful experience of bumming a smoke and killing time with a stranger.
Celeste finds endless potential through the power of relying on strangers and through her own ability to make difficult things soft. The sand mentioned above fits like a pillow. Other wall sculptures in this exhibition are pillowy-stuffed materials fitted inside the various caverns of refrigerator doors. Where a critic could easily argue this collection of sculptures is about our waste and how much of it there is, Celeste provides us the opportunity to quit worrying and find a better use for the refuse, ourselves.
“All the best, Kiah Celeste” reminds us to not be surprised when the calm of elegance and pleasure finds us where we weren’t expecting it. It was there all along because it is indeed everywhere all of the time. (Megan Bickel)
“All the best, Kiah Celeste” is on view at Document, 1709 West Chicago, through June 18.