The Color of Company

The Abrons Arts Center is proud to present the group exhibition The Color of Company. Culling from corporate and consumer culture, the domestic and the decorative, Darren Bader, Strauss Bourque-LaFrance, Charles Harlan, Lisa Oppenheim, and Donelle Woolford rearticulate high-brow aesthetic forms with low-brow American culture. Canvas scraps, chain-link fencing, Crayola color codes, cats, boxes, and other bric-a-brac are assimilated as both deadpan formal gesture and lukewarm polemic.

Exchanging an artwork’s timeless transcendence for a newly-normal “everyday,” this exhibition is indebted to Marcel Duchamp’s “ordinary articles of life” — to useless things chosen, and objects institutionally-valued (bottle rack, snow shovel). Eschewing the purely pictorial, The Color of Company conflates imagehood with left-over objecthood, the esoteric with the theatrical cast-aside, the campy remains, the land of the free. Depressed fetish.

Working with an economy of means, Darren Bader literally drags something off the street: a box full of flattened boxes. Partly torn, battered and bruised, it has the vague presence of a Judd but the look of the curb — and none of the former’s compartmental play. Charles Harlan also does a lot with a little, presenting a small chain-link fence seemingly plucked from the suburbs. Here, the fence is slightly overlapped and has the look of a pattern. Leaning against a white wall, it holds the shape of a painting with none of the paint, and forfeits its common utility for newfound exhibition-value. Donelle Woolford, meanwhile, reduces painting to tattered shapes, as scraps of canvas and linen hang from a series of clotheslines. Referencing a common sight in the American South, it’s as much indicator of class as it is of clean laundry.

Strauss Bourque-LaFrance presents an installation of sculptures and found objects. Attaching small eyes to black trash bags, he also sculpts a cat and several small clay cigarettes — tchochkes cohered as domestic assemblage. Deconstructing the Crayola corporation’s 2004 “Patriotic” color series, Lisa Oppenheim takes a Polaroid photograph of “Land of the Free.” Presenting five sequential photographs of the developing instant-film image, nation-state rhetoric and childhood play are perversely conjoined.

The Color of Company is curated by David Everitt Howe, 2011-12 AIRspace curator-in-residence, and part of the series Prized Vernacular, a platform for three exhibitions opening concurrently at the Abrons Arts Center that deconstruct a vernacular “everyday.” In light of the global economic recession, ordinary objects are presented as radicalized — prisms to a common unequally shared or realized. Reflecting cultural and economic difference, Prized Vernacular investigates this “new normal.”

Image: Charles Harlan, Fence, 2011
48 x 20”