Design can be defined as producing specific results that address a determined need, conveyed in the most concise and direct manner possible. The language of design is seductive for its rationality, yet fundamentally lacks the humor, invention, and criticality that distinguishes a painting from an advertisement, or a sculpture from an imposition. In contrast, a crucial function of art is to communicate in a language without rules. Giving speech to the speechless spurs an infinite cycle of creation and inspiration where the limits of accepted terms, familiar and invented signs are constantly redefined. In abstraction the practicality of the grid, visually pleasing patterns, primary elements and the expectations of formalism are a logic to operate with and against. Captivated by this timeless and unending dance, the artists in Logical Conclusions borrow and obscure the aesthetics of design to reveal the beauty in precarity.
A hybridized mechanical and organic approach is apparent in Nina Bovasso’s paintings and works on paper of sturdy geometry and ebullient flora, where a slipped curve is a leaf, a stem, or an arc stretching to a line that bends to a grid. For Bovasso, the stain is poetic, the spill ecstatic, and the composition is most interesting where order falters. Questioning the rigidity of abstraction in design and taking specific inspiration from textile patterns, illustration, and a history of painting, the rules of these genres are treated as pliable material for the artist’s exuberant and earnest expression.
A temporary resolve is the endpoint in Kjell Varvin’s series of sculptures titled Unstable Variables. Formally rigorous while maintaining the playfulness of their assembly, these flip, quick, yet neatly composed arrangements are built of raw materials collected in the artist’s studio that reappear across the series as toys in a playroom, open to infinite reconfiguration and rediscovery. The sacred and beautifully simple rules of geometry align with direct gesture in Varvin’s deviant architecture, as an abandoned scrap becomes a prop in the corner, piles of remains take on the cast of monumentality, and scatter is rendered dynamic.
Similarly forcing the limits of gesture and control, hard edges and loose brushwork unite in tension in Aimée Terburg’s untitled series of abstract paintings. Pastel lines reminiscent of architectural drawing are applied over wide strokes of deeply saturated raw umber that seem to swallow their delimiters or crash against them, while in other moments these arbitrary boundaries coast and soar over the rough landscape underneath. Vaguely indicating air and ground, subject and background, illusion rests in tension with anarchy.
In Rob de Oude’s finely crafted and careful works, order is also never quite as in control as it seems. Beginning with only a rough schema in mind, he proceeds to paint or draw line after line building dense layers that torque and skew as they accumulate. His technique is fine tuned by repetition and minimal, matter of fact engineering. Inevitably during this process the hand stutters, a line shifts, and suddenly the plan is all off. Such detours are serendipitous however, and rather than discard the work, these errs are incorporated into the pattern, simply inviting a new direction. Heavily inspired by the common intersection of art and design in his native Holland, de Oude’s insistence on intricacy is rivaled only by an obsession with the impracticality of painting.
The true economy of art is an exchange of invention, where a work is never complete and the results never precise. Lacking this vital precarity, the perfectly designed artwork is too readily defined, a mere sign, therefore functional, and removed from the gift economy of art. It is far more interesting to commit to the balancing act.
Both design and art present unique terms for visual and spatial communication. We invent symbols that meet a consensus of indication: a crooked line to signal a staircase, or arrows that direct which way to go. Lacking in humor and poetics, good utilitarian design is intentionally impersonal so that we do not even see the designed object as what it is, but what it does. A direct, pleasing, and focused design therefore yields an invisible object, one so precise and without character that it allows itself to go unacknowledged so that our attention remains dedicated to the task at hand – achieving this disappearing act is the key marker of success. We degrade a design by calling it “poor” if it is too casual, and if it fails in its function it loses its purpose and meaning. Such determined parameters and regulation, regardless of occasional hyper-stylization or slight whimsy, in effect deny the very qualities that could differentiate a thing as art, a realm that, in contrast, will always have a basis in anarchy and challenges such distinctions as “success” and “failure.” By warping or upturning an anticipation of functionality and specifically targeting the useful aspects of found materials, the artists in this second edition of Logical Conclusions impart a nobility in the absurd.
The title of Sergio Garcia’s twisted tricycle, Its not always easy to tell what’s real and what’s fabricated, tells all; the creation is a perversion of its original, making impossible the very usability that gives the vehicle its meaning in the first place. Nostalgic associations are inevitable and complement the work’s inventive humor. Often playing with deception and double meaning in his other works, Garcia continually presents the puzzles of how, why, and what, leaving all of these unresolved in favor of an aesthetically striking curiosity.
Ethan Greenbaum’s sculptures made from packaging refuse or construction materials often consider the gaps and seams of these rarely considered parts, highlighting the features that give these found items their identity and purpose. In works made of Styrofoam packaging material, cement is poured in the ditches and crevices where electronics or other industrially manufactured goods are nestled; in other works cinderblocks are piled or stacked, joined not with the typical sturdy cement but instead with plasticine, a kind of putty used in model making or preparatory studies. In both instances the element that gives the found material its use value or which enables it to function is precisely that which Greenbaum has replaced.
Abstracted nearly beyond recognition, Jon Bocksel’s An Invisible Swear Word paintings are composed of typographic characters that are fused and layered to create conflated versions of hypothetical bowdlerized terms. Confronting the instability of language and the corruptibility of symbols, Bocksel creates a new vocabulary of nonsensical albeit uncanny signs that provoke us to consider the arbitrariness of the profane, or where language forms or loses meaning, and what we expect of the symbols we encounter.
Leah Mackin’s video of a spinning umbrella top literally turns functionality on its side and twirls it around. As the object spins the center remains unfixed so that light moves freely across the faceted surface. At times the frame is casually disregarded revealing a glimpse of the world, if not the hand, behind this hypnotic curtain. Reminiscent of the formal rigor of her drawings and folded photographs, Mackin’s black umbrella is re-imagined as an endlessly revolving and shifting radiant poinis freed of its gloomy associations in favor of a capricious display.
In all of these negotiations a sincere playfulness comes in tandem with careful consideration. Abstracting and skewing the logic of an object’s specific functionality, these artists negate an intended value by rendering their subjects useless. However, instead of tools left wasted, these items are (re)drawn into the absurdist realm of art, thereby placing them in a new economy of value, and begging the conclusion: Forget the rules – just have fun.