On Saturday night, I attended the opening of import, the new exhibition at Ro2 Art Uptown that features works from Eric Eley, John Frost, and Ryder Richards .
The gallery, which opened earlier this summer, is housed in a really cool space in the West Village. Cement floors, light wood walls and fixtures, two raised platforms with ramps leading up to them, and a significantly hip crowd filled the space.
We stopped first at John Frost's installation titled "scape," which is poised on a platform in the front window. Waves of tiny homes pressed tightly together all made of nothing more than layers of plywood arch and swell and look strangely like corrugated cardboard. It's hard not to think of Frisco.
I could hear the Malvina Reynolds tune "Little Boxes" from the early 60s, playing in my head. Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same.
A second installation, "wake," sits not far below on the main floor. Piles of houses lay in disarray, presumably swept with two giant push brooms that lie amidst them. Even the brooms, also crafted by the artist, deserve close attention. Their bristles, though made of wood, curl like straw. The work is impeccable and the installation is of equal importance and appeal.
Another piece of Frost's, "facade," is a vivisection of houses floating off two dowels hanging from the wall. Some of the slices of houses have empty holes in the center, while others have holes filled with putty. All objects are seemingly whole, but they're all just facades.
In the opposite front window, also on a platform is a twister of dowels. It's large in scale, and the way it hangs from the ceiling makes it appear as if it's moving. The twister also looks as if it could demolish the neighboring work, "scape," in a moment if it swept past the gallery doors and over to the opposite side of the room.
"The Fall" is composed of colored houses, which symbolize wholeness, scattered around a tree trunk of dowels, exposing rings of primary colors. A little boy stood next to me looking at the piece intently. I asked him what he thought. "I like it," he said. His father then prompted him to share his notebook with me. Inside the pages, the eight-year-old had tallied how many houses of each color lay there. I asked him why he would do that. "I don't know. It just came to my mind," he said.
What came to my mind about this piece, coupled with Frost's other pieces, was a story, a cautionary tale perhaps, about what happens when you cut down the tree. Much like when Adam ate the proverbial apple, beautiful colors are revealed. But the tree as we know it, like the Garden of Eden, is no more. Now there is wood for homes, but as a result the tree is nothing but a stump.
I turned to Ryder Richards' work next. The work is primarily made of gunpowder, graphite and gold leaf. His works include a plywood gun cutout with a filigree pattern in gold leaf and a pair of guns in front of a filigreed medallion. "Thug Life Connected (Laocoon)" and "Thug Life Connected (Hercules and Acheloos)" depict Greek and Roman figures displayed with Richards' ever-present gun images.
Working with these materials and subjects has been an ongoing process for Richards, but most of the pieces in this show were ones he crafted in the past year. Richards had been using mostly graphite when he decided he wanted to work with a material that had more meaning for him as an artist. He chose gunpowder because of his roots in New Mexico and Texas and his many experiences hunting.
The choice has caused him some trouble when traveling. "I was covered in gunpowder and I had to go through that puffer at the airport. They pulled me aside and I had to pull out my phone and show them my work. You know I'm on a watch list," he says.
I asked how the three of them came to be together in this show. "Jordan and Susan [gallery owners Jordan Roth and Susan Roth Romans] gave me a show last year, and when they asked me to show again I brought in John and Eric."
Their work is very similar, he explains. All three gravitate to modular pieces with a modern aesthetic. All of their work is process driven and all three build as well as draw.
Despite the travel troubles, Richards is still working with gunpowder but on different subject matter that he said he wasn't ready to disclose. Richards' work focuses on the juxtaposition between beauty and violence, the power and the frailty that guns represent.
The pieces are both lovely and unnerving. They bring together components that "shouldn't" be brought together and yet there they are, and the materials are anything but arbitrary. They are as much a part of the pieces as the subject matter.
Eric Eley's work, both constructed pieces and those on paper, look like either constellations or spaceships. The drawings look like schematics for the constructed pieces and have a curious technical aesthetic, while the built pieces look like moments from the future, frozen for us to consider.
All three artists question what is and propose what could be, all three depict and dissect and all three all Dallas imports to watch.
See import at Ro2 Art Uptown through August 28. Visit ro2art.com for more information.