Consolarium: Amy Brener's Debut NYC Solo Exhibition @ Jack Barrett Gallery
This fall, Amy Brener opened her first solo show in New York with Jack Barrett Gallery. The title, Consolarium, is a place for consoles and consolation, lined with buttons and dials, storage tables and junk drawers, the faces of lost loved ones and relics from their lives. It is a collision site: time periods crash and interweave, while meaningful and throwaway objects fuse into hybrid structures. Anachronistic thinking takes place here, and existential musings are transmitted through circuits of dollar store junk.
Within Amy Brener's sculptures, disparate matter compresses and congeals to produce familiar yet strange forms, resembling otherworldly monuments, reliquaries, fountains, cakes, and garments. Largely housed under the umbrella title "Omni-Kit," each work represents a containment unit for stuff that is useful, but disposable and overlooked–the spillage from a society steeped in consumerism. Miscellanea such as flossers, cocktail forks, auto fuses, vitamins, and Q-tips are recontextualized inside seemingly devotional frameworks, demanding reverence.
A sense of urgency is marred across the surfaces of Brener's Omni-Kits, which look as though they've been dragged through time, accreting detritus along the way. With its sumptuous layers of grape foam, Omni-Kit (Eostra), a fertility goddess/storage rack, appears both edible and noxious, eliciting simultaneous desire and repulsion. Its sister sculpture, Flexi-Shield (Eostra), a double-sized silicone breastplate that hangs in the adjacent room, retracts from viscerality to symbolism, a bodiless sheath encasing a multitude of items. Forming patterns within casts of plastic packaging, these objects operate as language or code, as though bridging communication with future humans.
Others seek to serve bodies instead of mirror them, bearing offerings and suggesting mysterious functionalities. The Omni-Kit (Votive) series supplies sustenance through objects cast into deviled egg trays and tells mismatched time through bubbled watch faces. Fashioned in technicolor green and pink hues, Omni-Kit (Birthday) is temporally ambiguous, evoking 1950s Jell-O molds, Medieval architecture, Baroque decoration, and Art Deco motifs. Keyboard keys crusting its edges suggest current technologies and their projected repurposing in eras to come.
The face of Brener's deceased father appears frequently in these works, an artifact appropriated from his sculpture studio. Through miniaturization and repetition, it possesses both ornamental and talismanic qualities. For Brener, its copies hold the magic of an original that will never exist again in our reality but may persist in some other layer of time. By merging this emotionally charged imagery with everyday ephemera, Brener attempts to flatten hierarchies between the sacred and mundane, and filter cosmological questions through the gritty membrane of our material present.
Amy Brener’s Consolarium is on view at Jack Barrett Gallery through December 20, 2019. Be sure to see this one in person.