Saul Chernick: Enlightened Objects
May 9 – July 18, 2021
Saul Chernick’s Enlightened Objects are both physically and perceptively sensible. They are so magnetically tangible that it’s difficult not to touch them, yet they have a transcendental quality that belongs to a different kind of universe. This universe reveals itself through the sculptures’ muddied colors and sand-like material, emanating from the textures, smooth and coarse. Found objects peek through like fragments of real life in a dream.
An exhibition of recent sculptures by Brooklyn-based artist Chernick, Enlightened Objects transforms the gallery space in Williamsburg into an elegantly simplistic white cube in the front gallery and an immersive fantasy microcosmos in the smaller back room. The former hosts these small-scale works (the largest stands 26 inches tall) on its white walls, ledges, and pedestals. In this colorless place, the sculptures become windows to Chernick’s artistic understanding, an inner world where structure belongs with the accidental. In Worrier/Warrior (2020), two rotund glass vessels filled with grains are held by a binary structure, almost identical mirror images on top of organic, hand-like forms. The gliding exterior of the glass shines through the dirtied reds and blues of the homemade substance Chernick uses to construct all sculptures in the show. On a pedestal stands an untitled work from 2020, an old-fashioned telephone adorned with meticulously formed linear patterns in yellow. Despite the choice of such a strict motif, the work still bears the whimsy of Enlightened Objects as a whole, challenging the viewer’s perception of the order that applies to the waking world. This show has a different one.
Chernick embraces the found object. The abstract, flat sculptures on the walls, such as Never Too Much and Hot Air Balloon (both 2021), use plastic paint palettes. The sculpting material enwraps glass vases and stones, not hiding their everyday, familiar qualities but enhancing their aesthetics over functionality. These objects aren’t formally disassembled, but contrarily intensified. The parts of their refined surfaces may be visually concealed by Chernick’s material, but they simultaneously reveal new dimensions to them and transform the once ordinary objects they contain. True to their name, they are enlightened, taking on different meanings; as sculptures, they seem like they finally finished their voyages to be the bearers of artistic meaning.
Soloway co-director Jenny Nichols writes that Chernick’s works “decorate our dream house, and by decorate, he means make possible.” This sense of otherworldly decoration or function that’s detached from its ordinary meaning is enhanced also by the scale and organic elements. Three untitled works from 2020 are the most figurative of all, shaped like some sort of animal or monster expected to be found in the nightmarish, endless desert of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Unlike the mostly abstract forms of other sculptures, the viewer can suspect that these animals can be found somewhere, just not here.
The rear room of the gallery realizes that certain somewhere with the final work by Chernick. Separated by long, off-white curtains, this smaller space has an untitled piece from 2021 in its structural essence, offering the work within an unworldly realm created in collaboration with artist and visual storyteller InnerKiddo. Crafted as part of InnerKiddo’s ongoing project The Academy of Magical Thinking, the floors are covered with artificial grass, the walls and surfaces adorned with feathers, plants, and playful novelties. Vividly colored tulles, fabrics, and fairy lights hang from the ceiling. Some cloth-covered pedestals hold flowers and jars filled with fruits; at the very middle stands another of Chernick’s sculptures, a conical shape topped off with a globe. The surface is grainy but incredibly smooth to the eye, a dark green and dull yellow in a precise checkered pattern, adorned with other shapes and found stones. The globe contains a small projector that reflects colorful shapes of light in this dim dreamscape. Within the Academy, Chernick’s work entrances. Both artists’ work nourishes the other, painting the space in each other’s reflections. InnerKiddo also held a live and recorded performance on May 26 as part of this interdisciplinary project. In July, InnerKiddo’s collaboration at Soloway ends, but Chernick’s sculpture stays on view until the end of the show.
Just like the simple palettes in these artworks that evolve to contain endless possibilities, Enlightened Objects reaches places beyond the surrounding walls of Soloway. It’s a device that transports, embracing the pleasure of the unknown, the naïve, the fantastical. Activating this process is easy. Just look at Chernick’s work.