(Un)timely Part 2
Nora Normile - Stephanie Boyer - Nicholas Sullivan - Jonathan Santoro - Bruno Smith - Emma Safir - Steph Zimmerman
Curated by Bruno Smith
10/22/2022 - 11/20/2022
“Charming flower, tell me, do, What genera and species you belong to. I, as may be seen at once, am just a daisy, green of leaf and white of petal. You are neither green nor white nor blue nor any color I have known. In what Eden have you grown? Sprang you from earth or sky above? In either case, accept my love.”
“Why, thank you,” the toaster replied, addressing the daisy that was pressing its petaled face close to the toaster’s gleaming chrome. “It’s kind of you to ask, but in fact I’m not a flower at all. I’m an electric toaster.”
[...] It suddenly dawned on the toaster how the squirrels—and the daisy the day before—had come by their confusions. They were seeing themselves (italics) in its sides! Living in the wild as they did, where there are no bathroom mirrors, they were unacquainted with the principle of reflectivity. It considered trying to explain their error to them, but what would be the use? They would only go away with hurt feelings. You can’t always expect people, or squirrels, to be rational. Appliances, yes—appliances have to be rational, because they’re built that way. —Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster (1980)
If, as the toaster suggests, we could see ourselves in our appliances, what needs, habits, dependencies, or expectations might be reflected back in their gleaming chrome? These objects that bring us efficiency, ease, and comfort hum in the background, giving structure to daily life and work. While we have a hand in designing and customizing their forms, these objects also actively shape our environments—from our homes fitted for heating, cooling, gas, electricity, to the very ground we walk and drive across. The further away we move from manual technologies towards digitization and automation, the easier it becomes to forget what this labor looks like when slowed down. Expected to fulfill the task they’ve been designed for, do we even consider the function that non-sentient objects perform to be a form of labor in the first place?
In her plushing and pleating of a digital print, Emma Safir proposes a connection between the invisible labor historically performed by women and the passive labor of digital technologies. Nora Normile’s adorned (seemingly) domestic ceramics slip in and out of identifiable patterns and everyday utilitarian forms. What happens when the form is there but the function is gone? Likewise, Nick Sullivan crafts furnaces out of paper, the very material used for combustion, thus collapsing function and annihilation. Placing blonde wig crystal balls upon vents, Steph Zimmerman explores the homogenization of American homes after the invention of central A/C alongside the packaging and commodification of celebrity Pattie Page. Jonathan Santoro explores the American opioid epidemic through his series of anthropomorphized hubcaps that demand us to HALT and confront the four emotions (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) to be attuned to during recovery. Stephanie Boyer depicts cars submerged in murky waters in a serene representation of decay, overconsumption, and psychological atrophy in the age of natural and manmade disasters. Bruno Smith’s head lamp plays with the metaphysical notion of “harnessing energy” from portals (outlets) that plug us into the omnipresent electrical grid—an ode to both the magnitude of technological advancement and the eeriness of privatized electricity.
When it comes to the labor of the artist, what do we offer in fetishising functional forms? Pulling them away from their intended use and distorting their shiny, fabricated, mint condition, the function they perform becomes highlighted and an empathic exchange can begin. By un-optimizing production and utility, these works slow down our impulse towards efficiency and distort function. Together these works ask to be considered as both artistic forms and as stand-ins for functional objects whose labor and production are often obscured.
Nora Normile (b. 1992 NYC) is an artist currently living and working in New Brunswick, NJ pursuing an MFA at Rutgers University, Mason Gross. Received her BFA from NYU, a solo show at Entrance Gallery (2019). Her thesis show will be opening september 15.
Stephanie Boyer (b. 1991, Riverside, CA) is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA from UC Riverside (2015) and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University (2022).
Nicholas Sullivan (b. 1987) is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Sullivan earned his M.F.A. in Sculpture from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA, and his B.F.A. in Sculpture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA. Recent exhibitions include; Make Hay in the Sun, HG, Chicago IL; Ashes Denote Fire, Fortnight Institute, New York NY; Shoot The Lobster, New York, NY; Comfort Animal, A-L Gallery, Seoul SK; The Pit Presents: Step Sister, The Pit, Los Angeles CA, Neu, No Place Gallery, Columbus OH, ; The World Without Us, Brennan & Griffin, New York NY; Gist & Gesture, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL; Foster Prize Exhibition, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA.
Bruno Smith (b. 1990 NYC) is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in NYC with roots in Mexico City and Brownsville Texas. He received his BFA at SAIC (2012), and his MFA at Rutgers University Mason Gross (2021). He has had solo exhibitions at Ki Smith Gallery (2017, 2019, 2022), 6Base (2018). Was a member of Apostrophe Base12 collective shows and happenings (2015-2017) and has been featured at ThreeFourThreeFour (2019), Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery (2018).
Jonathan Santoro (b. 1983 providence, RI)work has been exhibited at High~Tide, Bodega, Lord Ludd, Brooklyn Army Terminal for Kara Walker Presents: The Colossus of Rutgers, EFA, Rosenwald Wolf Gallery, and Moore College of Art. He has co-curated exhibitions with Meredith Sellers at Pilot Projects and Icebox Project Space. Jonathan received his MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 2020 and is currently working on a solo exhibition entitled “In Praise of Folly” at Peep Projects that will open in 2022.
Emma Safir (b. 1990 NYC) holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in Printmaking and an MFA from the Yale School of Art in Painting & Printmaking. She has had solo exhibitions at Baxter St at CCNY, SHIN HAUS at Shin Gallery, and Bunker Projects, and has participated in group shows at Shulamit Nazarian, Ryan Lee, Lyles & King, among others. She is currently an Artist in Residence Keyholder at the Lower East Side Printshop. Safir lives and works in New York.
Steph Zimmerman has exhibited nationally and internationally, and has attended residencies at Atlantic Center for the Arts, The Vermont Studio Center, Arteles Creative Center, and Paul Artspace. She is the recipient of a Creative Stimulus Award from Critical Mass for the Visual Arts and an Artist Support Grant from St. Louis' Regional Arts Commission. She earned her MFA in art and design from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and her BFA in digital imaging and photography from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. She is currently based in Catskill, NY.