Proceed with Caution by Christa Assad and Callus by Todd Jannausch both feature works that artfully replicate industrial objects and tools. Christa Assad’s porcelain and stoneware work at Abmeyer + Wood explores the artist’s personal history and Syrian ancestry while confronting violence and war. Todd Janausch’s work at Method Gallery uses altered tools to “explore the relationship that is formed between the tool and its user.” Rather than utilizing readymades, Jannausch and Assad mimic to explore beauty, destruction and relationships.
Christa Assad is a second-generation Syrian artist who has watched as Syria’s civil uprising has developed into “a cyclone of civil destruction.” Assad’s work in Proceed with Caution was deeply influenced by the brutality enacted on all sides of the conflict, and the outcry against the use of chemical weapons by the ruling regime of Bashar al-Assad—no relation—is echoed in the works by Christa Assad. These pieces are “meant to trigger a humanitarian reaction to warfare” through a “vocabulary of symbolic forms and images…[placing] a magnifying glass on objects of war and their consequences.” Assad creates these symbols of war in porcelain and stoneware, defying typical conceptions of this delicate medium. Assad’s symbols take the shape of grenades, gas masks, bombs and RPGs, without the kitschy embellishment one sees in the Disasterware of Charles Krafft. Where there is painting, there are no twee, cobalt vignettes, but grey scenes of conflict.
Gas Mask I faces the viewer with hauntingly eerie empty eyes, a modern totem of the inhumane. Assad’s Gas Mask series explores variations of the form, and its repetition speaks to the serial and cyclical nature of warfare itself. Many of Assad’s porcelain grenades take a more uniform shape but are gilded differently, turning these weapons into beautiful objets d’art. The hand-thrown pieces—no grim pun intended—resonate with emptiness, devoid of destructive power and fragile in themselves. Assad has also created porcelain cinder blocks, which seem benign next to instruments of war, but as a basic element of cheap infrastructure they have their own brutality and provide a unique surface for her painting. In the pieces Mirroring and In Time, Assad presents imagery of terror and violence on block forms, distinctly evoking an urban theatre of combat, the destruction of homes and buildings, and the art of protest seen on city walls. The forms give the paintings an immediacy and a presence that a typical flat surface simply could not.
Proceed with Caution will be on display until January 5, 2014.
Callus at Method Gallery showcases Jannausch’s ability to turn the everyday into an object of beauty. These objects share DNA with the readymades of Duchamp, but these are not merely altered objects; there is exceptional woodwork involved—Jannausch is a trained shipwright—and his works do not simply alter context but emphasize an emotional connection between the artist, his tools and his creation. All are altered in the process. The title of the exhibition at Method Gallery speaks to this relationship of work and tools—as Jannausch describes, “This work examines the callus, a thickened area of skin caused by prolonged friction, as evidence of relationship.” Jannausch distinguishes these tools as “collaborators” in his work and manifests this relationship in hand blown nails, bent hammers, a perforated wheelbarrow (that throws wonderful shadows) and twisted saws, investing these inanimate forms with a life of their own. In Axe and Hatchet Jannausch recreates an axe handle—the original being one that he found particularly appealing—which he then split and steamed to create a frozen moment of separation, eloquently balanced in form between creation and destruction.
The relationship between creation and destruction is at the heart of the artistic process. Christa Assad confronts it directly in her work. Meanwhile, Jannausch’s humble acknowledgement of his silent “collaborators ” in this work and how the artist, too, is changed by the artistic process is sincere and refreshing.
Callus will be on display until December 21, 2013.