Assembly Point is currently presenting the group exhibition ‘LET IT RAIN!’ incorporating new works by artists Claire Boyd, Lucas Dillon, Mark Scott-Wood, Richard Seaholme, Benjamin Edwin Slinger. Curated by Millington|Marriott, the artist curatorial collaboration based in Las Vegas, the show uses objects from the sport of basketball, among other items, as its visual language, creating with it the ultimate sports metaphor.
The majority of the artists use similar language to create a series of basketball-themed works that build to form a collective installational dialectic, more than the aesthetic of a group show. Here we equate physical struggle and psychological complexes. The viewer is met with a playful yet disturbing ‘dunked head’ in the form of a basketball with a wig and painted face, exclaiming ’ Love Changes Everything, Pain is Deeper than Before’ (all works 2016), the title of the work by Claire Boyd. It is Tom Hanks’ ‘Wilson’ meets contemporary art via faux-existential angst. It is not the only filmic reference even if it is unintentional.
In fact the basketballs become formal objects in this installational assemblage. They are visual punctuation marks among the poetic relationships between the objects on display, thankfully lacking the pseudo-import of Jeff Koons’. Benjamin Edwin Slinger’s ‘A Nationalists Semiotics’, finds a basketball at the bottom of a builder’s shoot hanging expectantly from the hoop, like an overweight player, ‘deWANK’ is printed on its cylindrical form, and that of the basketball. This is assemblage with wry self-awareness.
Mark Scott-Wood’s, ‘The Swackhammer’s Looney, Stick’, subverts the basketball hoop, placing it on the end of a faux tree branch laid out on the gallery floor. The artist invokes the character Mr. Swackhammer, the evil alien antagonist of the 1996 film ‘Space Jam’, at the same time as recontextualising the objects used, changing their meaning, blending pop cultural references with the Duchampian.
This preposterous aesthetic is neatly juxtaposed with Lucas Dillon’s crisp works, including ‘O (Grasping Life as a Monkey Grasps a Nut)’. The artist’s practice results in a clean formality, reminding the viewer of the language structure that lies beneath the playfulness of surrounding works via taught and minimal assemblage. Dillon’s language is concise to say the least.
Often with the use of assemblage, artists have difficulty with ‘editing’ their individual sculptural trinkets and works become overwrought, over-complex. They become bloated attempts at language, failing to convey meaning over multiple relationships and narratives, leaving the viewer benumbed and confused. This particular transaction between artist and the nature of objecthood takes a good (if not great) artist to use assemblage with true success. Think of Joseph Cornell, or Joseph Beuys’ vitrines as a prime examples of masterpieces of assemblage - the poetry between form, substance and material, and in Beuys’ case, an intentionally mystical narrative of objects derived from actions of shamanistic portent.
With the seemingly collective works of ‘LET IT RAIN!’, we may not have a masterpiece of assemblage at the level of Beuys, or a mystical narrative (not that we need one) but the viewer can recognise the collective eye of ‘a painter who knows when to stop painting’. The desire to complicate the formal narrative of objects is not present, instead there is an intentional wink to the viewer. The works often employ absurdist and amusing uses of assemblage, constructed thematically with a dash of surrealism, a drop of minimalistic materiality and a knowing sense of humour. This is in fact a series of works about the body, yet the figure is largely missing. It might bring to mind the long-standing, even tired preoccupation with the juxtaposition of science and art. Instead, this collective of a group show refreshes the notion of body and identity with an entirely different signifier of physicality.