Critics’ Picks

View of “Particulate Matter: Things, Thingys, Thingies,” 2010.

View of “Particulate Matter: Things, Thingys, Thingies,” 2010.

Chicago

Stephanie Syjuco

Gallery 400
University of Illinois at Chicago 400 South Peoria Street
September 7–October 23, 2010

The whimsical sculptures in Stephanie Syjuco’s exhibition “Particulate Matter: Things, Thingys, Thingies” are based on designs that were never meant to have a material form. Each of the fifty-four pieces on view represents Syjuco’s attempt to physically render one of hundreds of virtual objects made with Google SketchUp, a free 3-D modeling program favored by amateur designers for its user-friendliness. (The exhibition also includes a video projection of these objects as they appear in digital form). While SketchUp designers can upload their creations to a shared database categorized by function (architecture, commercial interiors, gaming), a surprisingly large number of the uploaded objects have no apparent utility. Syjuco has industriously remade what are essentially three-dimensional doodles out of white foamcore, colored paper, and other basic craft materials and placed them on wooden pallets in the manner of manufactured prototypes or goods in transit.

Quirky yet exactingly realized, Syjuco’s polyglot “thingies” inhabit an epistemological gray zone: They are not quite copies of things, and the designs from which they are derived have no real-world referent. This leads to some amusing nomenclatural conundrums that Syjuco’s titles (which follow those given by the SketchUp designers) foreground. A 2010 model named Pointy Thing, for example, is described thusly by its SketchUp author: “It’s a pointy thing.” Syjuco’s handmade follies are at once pure sculpture and bastard offshoot, their delicacy and meticulous crafting a testament to the artist’s belief in the essential worth of ideas, however indeterminate that value may be.