Critics’ Picks

Derek Franklin, Hanging Around (Healing Sausages for Communal Gatherings) (detail), 2017, steel, clamps, sausage casing, fennel, lard, 92 x 44 x 6".

Derek Franklin

Williamson | Knight
Portland, US
August 24–September 29

Like the body, Derek Franklin’s newest sculptures have a shelf life, combining food and inorganic materials in arrangements that feel simultaneously solemn and funny. In Being Mediocre Is a Virtue of Survival (all works 2017), for instance, shiny new crayfish traps rise in a modernist stack with occasional slices of bacon inserted into their mesh exteriors. Catching crayfish with bacon is a common childhood activity in the Northwest, but dry-docked in the gallery and emitting the acrid scent of pork, the work feels forlorn: We’ve got traps and bait but no ecology, no quarry.

In another sculpture, Hanging Around (Healing Sausages for Communal Gatherings), a section of metal scaffolding sits before us. Curled around its bars are several of the titular foodstuffs—handmade by Franklin—composed of lard and fennel seeds. The sausages emit a subtle perfume as they warm in the room. As strange as it sounds, there’s lyricism within these links. They’re “artisanal” sculptures, handcrafted and spiced, slowly melding with the round bars, acting as a kind of poultice. Franklin references their curative powers in a poem that accompanies the exhibition: “Some leave a trace that rejoices in the space in which we heal, build, love and experience each other and the world around us.” At their core, Franklin’s gently deteriorating sculptures are humble, contemplative, and unsettling—the rotting meats do not feed us literally, yet they sustain the heart and mind extraordinarily well.