Artist: Matthew Darbyshire
Venue: Lisa Cooley, New York
Exhibition Title: Suite
Date: February 22 – March 29, 2015
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Lisa Cooley, New York
Suite is comprised of eight polycarbonate sculptures of consumer objects, domestic animals, designer furniture, standard utilities and classical art. Working from stock digital models, Darbyshire constructs the sculptures by layering 16mm sheets of semi–transparent, corrugated thermoplastic (a material that is primarily used in place of glass in architectural facades and skylights), which have been individually cut, colored and assembled by hand. All of the works have a consistent volume, equal to that of an average clothed human. They also share a color palate, which is derived from the standard Photoshop eight-color hue/saturation scale. Darbyshire determines the particular coloration of each work based on its physical position within the exhibition space, with the colors running red to green along a vertical axis from floor to ceiling. Along with this consistent color scheme, the sculptures’ material structure, which resembles something closer to a scaffold than a solid mass, distances them from the reality of the surrounding space. The objects come in and out of focus as their physical relationship with the viewer changes. They are fully legible from certain angles and nearly invisible from others. As one navigates Darbyshire’s Suite, all that is solid—to borrow Marx and Engels’ oft quoted description of the modern world—melts into air.
Darbyshire’s work deals in archetypes and clichés, and examines the social and semiotic charges that are latent within them. In previous exhibitions, he has chosen his subjects from sources as diverse as lifestyle magazines, historic poster campaigns, design catalogues, renowned architects portfolios, global megabrands fashion collections, and, for a recent show at Stanny House in rural Suffolk, The Renaissance City sculpture hall from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. For Suite, he began his search by making an informal survey of New Yorkers’ homes via the popular “accommodations lending” website, Airbnb. Executing his anthropological study in the guise of a tourist, Darbyshire isolated a number of repeating domestic motifs that have come to serve as symbols of an inhabitant’s elegance and good taste.
After settling on the objects that would occupy Suite, Darbyshire purchased generic 3D models of the items, which were then digitally manipulated (mostly for scale) and translated into hundreds of individual profiles to be cut, colored and assembled. Darbyshire’s process, which transforms virtual models into unique physical structures, underscores the particularity of each work. The process of cutting and assembling the sculptures requires a great amount of human involvement. Imperfections and errors are unavoidable. These, as well as the distortions of scale, color and form that happen during fabrication, place the objects within in a liminal space between the virtual and the physical, the high and the low, the profound and the profane, the past and the present, the singular and the stock, the substantial and the superficial, the sublime and the silly.
And then there are the cats. Where most of the sculptures within Suite are arranged according to the predetermined framework of a modern domestic interior (albeit one without walls), the cats are allowed to be free agents, skulking, climbing and sitting wherever they like. Though they are similarly based on digital 3D models, the cats are constructed from plaster and carved entirely by hand. Within the realm of Suite, the cats are cast as tricksters. Their primary role is to upset the exhibition’s internal logic, and to underscore the importance of context and contingency. Darbyshire’s cats remind us that even the most generic forms need to be understood in light of their physical, historical, social and cultural particularities. As the artist has recently stated, “most of us can barely fathom the composition of the physical, let alone the virtual, so it’s this more hands-on interpretation of it that’s renewing my belief in sculpture’s true potential.”