Waltham

Clay Ketter/George Stoll

Rose Art Museum

Although you might not expect it, Clay Ketter and George Stoll share a number of concerns. This ambitious exhibition (aptly titled “Impostures”) of thirty-seven recent sculptures, paintings, and drawings brought their work together for the first time. Responding to conceptual and formal similarities, curator Lelia Amalfitano juxtaposed Ketter’s architectural wall paintings and building-material sculptures with Stoll’s handmade replicas of mass-produced products like Tupperware, toilet paper, and sponges to confront what she describes as “the modernist utopian ideal and the quintessential domestic experience.”

For his carefully composed, near-monochrome paintings and wall sculptures, Ketter, an American living in Sweden, uses common hardware-store materials—latex paint, joint compound, steel corner bead, gypsum wallboard—and methods borrowed from his experiences as a carpenter to create “trace paintings” in which labor and art are one. RTP 9.A/9.B, 2000, is essentially a kitchen wall whose cabinets have been ripped off. At the same time, its muted tones, geometric shapes, and hard edges pay homage to the quiet elegance of Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman. Ketter also uses ready-mades, as in Dala Lars, 2000, a rearrangement of walls torn from a Swedish home. His “surface composite” sculptures reconstruct shelving-unit floor displays based on IKEA’s simple designs. For Surface Composite #13 (square nine), 1999, the artist organized plastic-laminate panels, particle board, and Masonite in an arrangement suggesting an appealing IKEA kitchen, complete with stainless steel counter, shelves, and a closet organizer. The design of the module and the balanced horizontal and vertical lines of the units echo the abstract vocabulary of Mondrian and Donald Judd. Although it is a faithful scale rendering, Ketter’s “surface composite” is completely dysfunctional; the closet and shelves are sealed behind glass, and the five drawers of the central unit lack handles.

George Stoll’s Pop-inspired sculpture brings a campy sensibility to Ketter’s drier work: The Los Angeles artist makes reverential “portraits” of disposable household objects. Untitled Sponge Painting (Blue Car Sponge), 1999, composed of burned balsa wood and alkyd paint, glorifies the classic figure eight–shaped sponge as an icon. In Untitled (Springfield), 1995, his funny and elegant tribute to toilet paper, Stoll renders the lowly roll in white silk chiffon, which he has hand-quilted and lovingly embroidered with tiny roses. Many of his best works are scale replicas of Tupperware containers fashioned of fragile beeswax (certainly not suitable for use) and arranged according to a combination of intricate rules and chance. In Untitled (80 Tumblers on Five 5’ Shelves), 1999, five perfectly plain white shelves on the wall hold wax tumblers in various shapes, sizes, and colors, cast from molds of Stoll’s extensive Tupperware collection. The uniformity and simplicity of the shelves and their arrangement echo Ketter’s minimalist, architectural aesthetic, while the uneven rows of bright cups attest to a whimsy that is Stoll’s own.

One could easily imagine stocking the shelves of Ketter’s imaginary kitchens with Stoll’s inspired “impostures.” Their assaults on the boundaries of high and low culture are well matched.

Francine Koslow Miller