William Emmert’s solo exhibition at Guerrero Gallery creates a diversionary tactic that compels the viewer to ask the age-old question, “what is art”, and furthermore, “what is a gallery”. The space is installed with replicas that mimic art and the objects of art making, in addition to the objects that are used to hang a show. Everything here is “not real”— or not real in the sense that the pieces are not actual. Emmert’s pieces are fictional – that is to say that their use factor is left to the imagination. This use factor fiction is three-fold: the tools and materials used to make art; the tools used for transporting and installing art; and of course, the art itself.
I think of Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store” but Emmert’s work is not as grotesque or surreal. Here, the objects are made with delicate attention to detail and intentional care. In the center of the space is a sculpture titled, “Climate Controlled” that features a beautifully crafted, hand-sewn cloth industrial moving blanket crumpled on top of a pallet which is constructed of papier-mâché and painted with a faux wood finish. Replication of actual objects blurs the line between reality and artifice, creating a confusing and compelling collision between subjectivity and purposefulness. To take it a step further, art itself is called into question by the double-entendre “art” that is hanging in the space.
In the show, two dimensional pieces hang on the wall standing in for art. Most of them utilize felt, a material traditionally used for crafts and home hobbies. The viewer is pushed to linger in a space between serious and kitsch. When wool felt appears in post-modern work from the likes of Robert Morris and Joseph Beuys, the material is forced into a fine art context. Here that same force is happening – the craft history of the material pokes irony at the whole “art thing” and at the same time because the work is being viewed in an actual gallery, the seriousness of the pieces cannot be dismissed or overlooked. The inability to overlook opens up a big can of worms when discussion the function of art itself and the role of the gallery in displaying and selling art. In short, everything here is art, and Emmert’s diversion and simultaneous embrace of the replica makes the discussion of actuality all the more present.
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-Contributed by Leora Lutz