Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Window Art Shares A Post Apocalyptic Vision Of The Future

Adam Kelly in the NANA windows April 1 - 30 2014 

Reviewed by Madeleine Cruise

Untitled Plastic 2014 creates shadows at night
A mysterious black creature looms large in NANA’S window on Perkin’s Street and like a foreign animal in a zoo exhibit it’s strangeness has attracted an audience. Not all have been willing attendees with some passers having experienced a rather frightening surprise after casually gazing into the former David Jones window expecting a display of hosiery or handbags. Unsuspecting window shoppers have been known to look twice only to take a quick side step away from the glass. This is understandable as the unidentifiable creature towers over two meters high and features two long antennae that reach down and probe the ground. Even upon comprehension that this leering monstrosity is in fact inanimate and a protected species of contemporary art, the glass window remains a welcome protective barrier between the art world and the street population of Newcastle.

As art history demonstrates it is this simultaneous experience of revulsion and intrigue of the audience that is indicative of a successful piece of art.  One has to only recall one of art’s biggest names: Duchamp, to understand the significance of provocative art. Fountain caused immense controversy when Duchamp reinterpreted the identity of a urinal by placing it in the art gallery. But it was the academic and public discussion that ensued that resulted in the expansion of art practice and public perception forever. Just as Duchamp elevated the banal if not ugly refuse for discussion as does Adam Kelly in the untitled piece of 2014.

Untitled Plastic 2014 of a day
Untitled features hundreds of black plastic seedling tubes that have been inserted into one another so as to build a large three-dimensional creature. Polished with shoeshine the overlapping edges of the plastic containers reflect the light and enhance the impression of reptilian scales that fold over the sculptural limbs. What would have otherwise become individual pieces of rubbish have been united and reinterpreted so as to suggest an alternative reality. It is the manipulation of materials so as to question value that remains one of the most influential and useful tools of artistic practice. Kelly should be praised for procuring something into being that antagonises boundaries and encourages public reaction and discussion.

Kelly’s work can be understood as a macabre vision of a post apocalyptic future where frightening creatures such as his Untitled monster roam freely. In this dark wasteland all that remains of human civilization are the artifacts of our self-indulgent polluting lifestyle. Kelly’s work suggests consequences for our behavior on planet earth and by re represting familiar objects asks us to reconsider our attitudes and practices that impact the environment and ultimately determine our future.

The content of Kelly’s work whilst powerful isn’t overt and although structurally confronting is equally playful. Again, it is the careful balance of aesthetic opposites causing mixed reactions that enhance the accessibility of the artwork. Just as the audience isn’t entirely repulsed by it’s initial sinicism neither are we overwhelmed by its catastrophic environmental predictions. Perhaps this is because of it's reminiscence to Lego, whereby the interlocking seedling tubes create a nostalgia for childhood games. As such there is a subsequent innocence to the materiality of Kelly's work that invites participation and ultimately enhances its communicability. Untitled possesses a sensitivity for the application of art with ideas and as such this work creates maximum impact. 

Untitled is currently on display on Perkins Street Newcastle until April 30 and can be seen all day and night.

Adam Kelly at the opening of Out of the Woodwork April 2014

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