Compared to the wonders of the ancient world, urban sprawl is devastatingly mundane. But what if a mass-produced monument sprang from its overdeveloped terrain? California-based artist Shannon Wright has imagined such “products” to bring harvested culture to the dystopia.
Some of these sculptural devices aiming to “restore dignity to landscapes ravaged by industrialization and unchecked development” are on view in Heroic Measures at Mulherin + Pollard on the Lower East Side. The solo show is small, with much of it consumed by “Folly (Colosseum of Rome).” Composed of 52 arches of galvanized steel pipe and fencing material, the utilitarian take on the Italian icon appears somewhere between conceptual jungle gym and cattle corral.
Wright has played with warping mass-produced materials before, such as her 2007 “Feral Fence” that gave tree-like branches to a chain link barrier, and her “Mechanical Reproduction” installation at Mulherin + Pollard in 2012, where a giant rubber stamp covered the gallery in inky wallpaper. The work is similar to that of artists like the Dufala Brothers and Elmgreen & Dragset, who manipulate utilitarian materials such as air ducts or plumbing to destabilizing effect, or even Lawrence Weiner’s NYC Manhole Covers, which blend into city streets by commandeering a common urban object.
Heroic Measures also includes images of tires using historic patterns as their treads — 13th century Turkish stone tiles and 19th century Chinese window lattices, for example — and a curl of pipes in “Flourish (Public Art),” proposing that “urban blight can be ameliorated through the addition of strategically placed curlicues.” The pieces themselves would probably be more effective out in the “wild” rather than clustered in the gallery, but it’s an intriguing proposal for some playful ways of blurring the formal area between hallowed icons and throwaway construction materials.
Shannon Wright: Heroic Measures is at Mulherin + Pollard (187 Chrystie Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through April 27.