Los Angeles

Sam Durant

Blum and Poe

Installing a sliding-glass door to enclose a space beyond the gallery’s reception area, a suspicious Sam Durant contrasted the workaday practicality of furnishings and building materials with the surface seamlessness of interior design through photographs, drawings, and sculpture. In his five-part sculpture Scrap Recycling Project with American Ingenuity, 1995, Durant attached a high-pressure laminate surface to odd-shaped scraps of plywood and particle board. The smooth laminate was carefully trimmed to the edges of the supports, and the pieces—painted either in the brown, yellow, and ochre “earth tones” of ’70s interiors or in “bicentennial” reds, whites, and blues—leaned against the wall. By attaching an expensive durable surface to variously shaped scraps of low-quality building materials, Durant seemed to revel in a folk-art esthetic of mix-and-match, transforming useless scrap into a welcome sight.

In past years, Durant has made models and collages depicting Case Study Homes infiltrated by squatters, white trash commandos, biker heroines, and bored teenagers. In 16-by-20-inch color photographs of the undersides of overturned classic Modernist chairs (by Charles Eames and Eliel Saarinen, among others), he captured what may be seen as the aftermath. Shot with a harsh flash and against various floor backgrounds, the photographs were all titled with the generic term “chair.” The chairs may now have become fetishized collectors’ items (at least on the West Coast), but, as revealed in the photographs, their lowly bottoms still exhibit their down-to-earth “do not remove this tag” tags, lint, and scratches. The photographs suggest that, although the aura of their dated idealism may be discernible, their physicality is still affected by the ravages of time.

In Evolution of a Perfect Idea, 1995, Durant installed an inexpensive-looking wood-grain laminated entertainment center filled with magazines, catalogs, and Xeroxes. Viewers are invited to rifle through Ikea catalogs, magazines like Victorian Home, Maximum Rock and Roll, and Flip-side, and other items of interest from the past few years. (The only magazines that are current are those for the slug and the stud, High Times and Muscle and Fitness.) These niche-marketed magazines define different esthetic concerns in very specific ways. Analogously, Durant is settling into his own visual language, one that borrows as much from pop culture as from Modernist design. While past works may have been an overseasoned beef-stew, his new work mixes subtlety and spice in a delightful and ponderous curry.

Lisa Anne Auerbach