The free takeaway from Anthony Discenza’s current solo show at Catharine Clark Gallery (the labyrinthine-titled Anthony Discenza Presents A Novel: An Exhibition by Anthony Discenza) is an inky newsprint edition optionally pre-placed in a matte plastic bag. The bag is meant to protect clothes, hands and accessories from the black pigment within, but possibly also from the ideas within -- mind-bendy meditations on identity, exhibition-making and the work of being an artist.
The premise of Anthony Discenza Presents A Novel is that of an artist named Anthony Discenza exploring “the history of an unrealized exhibition by Bay Area artist Anthony Discenza.” If that isn’t confusing enough, the aforementioned unrealized exhibition, tentatively titled “A Novel,” was meant to take place in late winter of 2016 -- a time decidedly unhistorical. Instead of an exhibition remade, we see the makings of an exhibition: photocopied research materials, studies and considerations.
The show at Catharine Clark is fragmentary, filled with vinyl text pieces, ghostly inkjet prints, a sound installation and a scattering of mysterious rubber wedges (wheel chocks for trucks). The objects share a type of deadpan and monochromatic humor that keeps the viewer forever off-balance, questioning the rationale behind each piece.
Text-based work (on walls, neon tubes and in frames) is offset by layered compositions of often-unidentifiable objects. On the floor, a stacked arrangement of re-densified polypropylene packing foam resembles oversized chunks of charcoal. These things are opaque in meaning, but solid in form.
It's Study for an Essay (On the Disappointments) that really destabilized my viewing experience. The inkjet print looks just like a photocopy of a book spread, showing a portion of an essay written by somebody named Anthony Discenza. The subject is The Disappointments, a novel written by somebody named Lane Hobbs who may or may not be real. And so, “the disappointments” are now the feelings I have after reading part of an essay about a book that sounds amazing, but might not exist.