On ViewSUNNY NY
February 10 – March 12, 2022
Andrea McGinty’s work has been consistently focused on exploring the aesthetic possibilities inherent in what we consume. Whether it be food or clothing, appliances or cat litter, she draws our attention to the myriad ways in which such objects maintain expressive capacities of their own. Her found-object sculptures combine items we might use at home for comfort or pleasure, or those we might use to prepare food or to garden, into both an ensemble of the absurd and one of vivid personal description. In this new work she pushes the metaphoric potential of those sculptures further, pairing them with found objects on the floor and, on the walls, with digital photographs printed on vinyl and then stitched onto canvas. What results is a body of work that makes the consumptive self a character in the extreme, while at the same time pressing upon the distinction between what we perceive as natural and artificial.
A relationship that runs through the entirety of the exhibition is established right as we enter the gallery: the exteriority of the place where McGinty made this work—fields, flowers, and gardens—and the interiority that is reflected by her sculptures, where food is recreated and displayed anew atop flag poles that are cemented into place within the empty containers of things like laundry detergent and cat litter. The structure of the exhibition makes use of this relationship between outside and in, both literally and metaphorically, as it unfolds through the gallery’s two rooms. The walls repeatedly show us images or objects that relocate our attention to a natural setting, though one that has been deconstructed by the blade of a knife, as with Haystack (all works 2021), or recast in bronze, as with Growing heavy for the vintage. While the sculptures ask us to concentrate on a mixture of odd and banal objects which, incredibly so, seem at times to offer a kind of psychological portrait, the walls repeatedly extend the space outward, regardless of the different ways McGinty interrupts or destroys even the pretense of illusion.
Just as this spatial relationship is established from the outset, so too is the element of comic absurdity and pop culture reference. Indeed, aside from the name of the exhibition, Clint Eastwood, one of the most prominent works one sees upon entering the gallery space is Horse, in which a mannequin dressed in a horse costume stands with one foot inside a box of cat litter and the other in a black boot with two inches of sock showing, the slogan “Please Recycle” still visible. To keep the barest thread of illusion from breaking, the backside of the horse is propped up with a flagpole cemented into a container of laundry detergent. Though in using these already consumed objects McGinty is following the creed expressed by the sock, the exaggerated and tawdry nature of the costume through which that creed is communicated undercuts any attempt at gravity. A cycle of action and intent becomes one of performance as well.
As one continues moving through the gallery space, the loose pairing of sculptures and wall works adds new layers of reference and reflection, while the odd beauty of McGinty’s work becomes ever more apparent in the way it expresses different registers of time. In 30-30, McGinty makes use of an Igloo water container to house a candle that burns without end, reconfiguring something that would ordinarily allow us to mark the passage of time to remain fixed to the present instead. Lettuce Bee plays with the contingency of a bee’s presence (that the slightest disturbance will set it off in flight) by fixing an artificial bee atop similarly artificial lettuce. The Good The Bad and The Ugly asks us to consider which-is-which-is-which between nicotine lozenge containers, an artificial potato, and artificial bread tied up inside a ziploc bag. Beside these works on one wall is a triptych of 3 photographs of weeds and flowers, each slashed and reconstructed, their illusion destroyed and then reassembled. On the opposite wall is another horse costume, unoccupied, but affixed with a post-it note that lists a sandwich order. The costumed and consumptive self is no longer manifested through a mannequin-like presence. Instead, time and nature, habits and food, are all picked apart and reassembled again as though we were moving through a day in the mind of McGinty, or whomever the character in this work really is.
In the second and final room of the gallery, McGinty intensifies the expressive registers of the first. The wall works Meadow and Freezer Burn, hung across from one another, both hinge upon pictorial space which has been removed from what the titles suggest the images would otherwise plainly show (Freezer Burn is more an image of redaction than description, its title doing the work of association more than its imagery possibly can). Hung between them is Turkey Two Ways, a CD-rom containing two different preparations of turkey by celebrity chef Alton Brown, placed in a bag and clipped to the wall. Across from Turkey is Life Cycle, another vinyl printed photograph that has been cut and resewn, in which a butterfly resting on the fingers of an outstretched hand has been cut apart so that it seems to be in relief, as if to emphasize the small miracle of what had taken place. Hydrangea, the final wall work in the room, hearkens back to the images of foliage and flowers, though in this case the flowers radiate with soft greens and milky whites, the fact of their cutting and reassembly seeming an impossibility before the almost perfect and obviously beautiful union of it all.
Almost forgotten in this room, if only because at first it seems so unassuming, is Hawaiian Punch, a sculpture that delicately mixes humor with a quiet reverence for the ordinary. Inside a cardboard box that once contained gallon jugs of the Hawaiian Punch soft drink, to which has been added strips of packing tape customized with the eBay logo, are leaves of artificial lettuce fixed into resin. The lettuce seems immaculate, and the resin invokes a bottomless pool. It is an astonishing illusion, and we believe it, in spite of ourselves—in spite of what the box reminds us of. Once more McGinty refers us back to the consumptive self, the one desperately trying to reuse and repurpose the materials around them, though in doing so she offers neither celebration nor outright disavowal.
Aside from the formal ingenuity of the work, the ambiguity of tone that McGinty strikes throughout is part of what makes the exhibition so alluring. Where humor and absurdism would otherwise keep the work in a space of cynical detachment, McGinty deftly places it somewhere between that and poetic contemplation. A larger point is made gradually, but forcefully, in the process: that we may be so thoroughly entangled in, and dependent upon, the logic of mass consumption, that to extricate ourselves from that fully can at times veer into a space of performative politics. Even if we accept this to be true, we need not also consider that world a fallen one—beauty can be found in it and made from it. Though a “way out” may not be clear right now, we should continue to look everywhere around us, as McGinty clearly does.