"I always really like the idea of an alien coming to Earth and not knowing the difference of things," says Berlin artist Rachel de Joode. We're sitting in the noisy back room of an East Dallas sandwich shop discussing her Saturday show at Oliver Francis Gallery. Her pieces reflect that theme. It isn't uncommon to see stacks of processed cheese acting as a fulcrum, or a banana serving to absorb the weight of delicately stacked rocks while its innards spill out, dramatically.
She has a rare gift. She's able to distance herself from conventional methods of viewing everyday objects, which allows her to strip them of their known roles and give them new ones. "Like, 'Maybe this is a computer?'" she says, reaching her arm out with intentional extraterrestrial clunkiness, to kiss together a salt shaker and bottle of balsamic vinegar that sit on top of the table.
The end result of her building is both lovely and layered, appreciable on a superficial level but also cocooned in heady philosophical points of interest. Her new show, "Real Things," deals with the fleeting nature of permanence, the way we view art as documentation and the role that we, and objects, fill in space. Also, there's a robot.
She's been immersed in a New York artist-in-residency program for the last two months, so de Joode has had the freedom to explore these concepts in their fullest. She often works with items that have no shelf life, like food. Or builds structures that are perfect for a short while, long enough to trap in an image but not sturdy enough to ship, or hold form for an extended period. Most of her exhibitions are photographic capturings of these pieces at their ripest; we see them through documentation, which in an electronic art world is the same way we experience the majority of what we consume.
De Joode is the first to point out that documentation of art and art itself have always coexisted, but until recently it was something that needed to be sought out through literature. Now, we see almost everything online and much is photographed in a similar manner: perfect lighting, an exact corner angle. We rarely see the backs or insides of things, even though those regions also interact with the space around them. So for this show, Dallas will be the first to see a solo production of Rachel de Joode's physical sculptures themselves, and you better look out. One of them is coming right at you.
A play on the perfect angle money shot of modern art via jpegs, de Joode has built a piece that visibly excites her. She calls it "The Corner." Composed of drywall, and plastered with photographs of actual museum walls, it's a three dimensional rendering of an otherwise exhausted image. To take it further, she brought in outside help. "Through a lot of trial and error I found this woman who teaches robotics." she says, "she had two of her students mak[e] my robot."
Envision the way a roomba moves through a hemmed in area: This is the mode of transport for The Corner. It will carry this intentionally designed trope through the room and into your personal space. "It's very ironic, and it has this pastiche of 'art itself,' but it's also very dramatic."
It's this balance of silly and downright intentional that carries through the rest of the exhibition, and tugs at the pigtails of our relationship to art and the regions both it, and we, occupy.
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She read that scientist have identified the color of the universe by measuring a sample of its contents. While sure, space itself is black and absent of pigment, the stars range from blue to red. When all was chromatically broken down and a median tone was proven, it turned out boring. "It's beige." Says de Joode, "It sucks." Physicists labeled the tone "Cosmic Latte," and while the color itself is funnily uninteresting, this thought that we all are "encrusted" in this color, and in space itself as an object, is a notion that pleases her.
To celebrate and represent that in a gallery setting, as well as attempting to answer a question that had been stewing in her mind -- "Space, what is it?" -- Rachel took a field trip. She went to a paint factory and had them perfectly recreate the shade "Cosmic Latte" down to the exact scientific color formula. Then she sculpted a pizza crust out of clay and painted it. "We're encrusted in color, but [pizza crust is] also something often discarded, as well as a metaphor for this encrusted thing."
While we will clamor to see de Joode's Crust, Corner and other fascinating projects on Saturday, it's the end result of this show that gives the artist one last, perfectly pointed joke. Since the exhibition will occur at a small gallery in Dallas, Texas, the majority of the art world will not experience it in the flesh. "They'll have to see it online," she says, "as documentation."
This exhibition at Oliver Francis Gallery (209 S. Peak Street) opens on Saturday, August 11, in a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. It's free to attend.