Los Angeles

Sarah Perry

Koplin Del Rio Gallery

In the desert where I live, rusty junk—spent bullet cartridges, empty beer cans, abandoned cars and trucks, decrepit appliances—is as much a part of the environment as cacti and Joshua trees. I don’t know why, but all that junk scattered around is strangely reasoning, comforting almost. Perhaps that is because it represents a trace of humanity in a landscape that can seem immeasurably hostile. Or perhaps there’s something else: a feeling that these things falling apart in the sun have their own spirits, afterlives of their usefulness waiting to be revealed.

Viewing Sarah Perry’s exhibition “Seeing in the Dark,” it’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that there are spirits in objects. Perry uses everyday rubbish, much of which she finds in ghost towns in the Nevada desert, to create powerfully charged sculptures. There’s a science-project aesthetic to the resulting works, as though Perry is meticulously setting up experiments using often-startling combinations of materials—old books, fishhooks, pieces of string, cracked mirrors and antique cages, pieces of brass, bronze, and iron, and bones, wings, and other bits of small animals—the intent of which might be to make discoveries about life, death, nature, and culture. Or perhaps their point is to investigate paradoxes in the processes that govern nature—decay and regeneration, birth and death. Darwin’s Portals, 1997, for example, neatly reconciles the theories of evolution (positing a continuous development of the natural world) and entropy (positing degeneration and chaos): Perry has formed a human hand out of thousands of tiny reptile and amphibian bones in various states of decay. A hole piercing the palm suggests the form of a lens, implying a telescoping of time from the remote past to the distant future.

In Guard #2, 1996, various pieces of metal are entwined in the shape of a young sapling. At the end of each metal “twig” is a lizard’s claw, and the whole sculpture is mounted on caster wheels. This alien fusion of man-made materials with animal parts implies a mutuality or unity of the natural world and the cultural. Like the other works here, Guard #2 is seamless, with no evidence of suturing, gluing, or construction. These objects seem to have always existed the way they are, wreaking havoc with our innate desire to separate the world into familiar and unfamiliar. Perry aims to blur the concrete, provable reality of science with the unlimited horizons of the fantastic. By such means, she suggests, we can reenvision and reanimate the world.

Rosetta Brooks