Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dustin Fosnot at Steven Wolf (SF)

Alert: This exhibit is scheduled to close on 10/28/06.

Dustin Fosnot’s solo exhibit at Steven Wolf Fine Arts manages to turn miniatures into spectacle. There are dozens of works in the show, and most of them would fit under a hat. Mostly they are displayed along a rambling table made of boards and sawhorses (photo above). Seeing this, you don’t know where to focus at first. Later you find yourself coming up for air, having lost track of time. The teensiness and subject matter may be a challenge for local collectors—who are hide-bound compared to those in New York and Los Angeles—but their loss will be someone else’s gain.

There are also several larger works, including a seascape fashioned from rubberized work gloves (detail below, from the gallery website).

Fosnot does not explain his work, so viewers are free to riff about what he’s doing. First, it’s worth noting what Fosnot selects to mimic in miniature. There a no human figures. I recall only one piece with an animal figure. Most of what you see are objects so utilitarian that they aren’t normally considered part of the world of design much less the world of art. They are objects that we often see but barely notice, the quasi-invisible clutter of modern society. This is art for people who like hardware stores.

Mostly you see single objects. They are not part of a narrative. The scale of miniaturization is not consistent from object to object. Sometimes the materials mimic the originals, sometimes not. Some works rest on tiny platforms or pedestals, some not. A number of works are done in multiple versions, with variations.

The miniaturization, by removing any notion of utility, emphasizes the formal qualities of the objects: shape, materials, color. This is aesthetic in itself but it also invites sly comparisons with favored tropes in modern and contemporary art.

Is there a social critique here? The work does tend to show how utilitarian much of the world is, how much people are surrounded by visual banality. And certainly there is a prankster wit aimed at entrenched ideas of what constitutes art. But this is gentle work. It opens you up rather than puts you on the defensive. It is infused with an air of contemplation that tilts toward acceptance.

Below are a few close-ups of the miniatures (the colored dots are price indicators):

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