Repossessed: Brief Madness and Colony at Electric Works

Lucy Puls makes the type of art that could make you say, "I don't get it." In her current exhibit, Repossessed: Brief Madness, photo fragments juxtaposed with abstract, painted shapes are framed on the wall. Random objects are scattered around the floor with large photographs leaned strategically up against them, or placed near them.

While humans are noticeably absent from the images in Puls's current show, they are, in fact, exactly what she is exploring. Through her art, she has generally focused on consumption and the inevitable disposal of objects by using found items from thrift stores and sidewalks as her materials. But when the economy tanked and the mortgage crisis set in, Puls turned her attention to repossessed homes.

The floor assemblages reminded me of Rauschenberg's Combines for no good reason -- Puls's installations are far more modern, clean, and streamlined. Some of her objects look to be taken from homes and are part of her Recinere series, which Google translates as "re-echo" in Latin. The homes in her photos offer echoes of former residents, while her art is an architectural "re-echo" of those ghost homes. The installations, mixed with the photographic fragments of vacant interior spaces and isolated objects appear like a physical map of a sad, desolate neighborhood with its detritus strewn about. But maybe that's just me. What you might not notice is that some of the objects -- garbage disposals and light fixtures among them -- are trompe l'oeil paper sculptures.

Upon leaving the gallery, I happened to hear Terry Gross talking to New York Times financial editor Gretchen Morgenson about the unbelievable shadiness of recent forclosure procedures. Lucy Puls will have plenty of material to continue her series for a long time to come. The madness seems anything but brief.

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In Electric Works' project room, Talia Greene exhibits vintage photographs of people wearing what can only be described as beards of bees, and long, skinny scrolls printed with ants crawl around the space. She explores "themes of order and disorder" through insects. The ants are an installation called Weaver Colony, and the photographs are "altered portraits," representing a commentary on Victorian era colonization.

Repossessed: Brief Madness and Colony are on view through November 26, 2010 at Electric Works in San Francisco. For more information visit sfelectricworks.com.

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