New York

Nancy Lupo, Super Realistic Deluxe Salmon, 2015, Bumbo baby floor seats, Soylent (open-source formula 1.0), Magic-Smooth, imitation sushi, 10 × 42 × 15".

Nancy Lupo, Super Realistic Deluxe Salmon, 2015, Bumbo baby floor seats, Soylent (open-source formula 1.0), Magic-Smooth, imitation sushi, 10 × 42 × 15".

Nancy Lupo

Wallspace

Nancy Lupo, Super Realistic Deluxe Salmon, 2015, Bumbo baby floor seats, Soylent (open-source formula 1.0), Magic-Smooth, imitation sushi, 10 × 42 × 15".

Arresting, disconcerting, and nominally childproof, the centerpiece of Nancy Lupo’s debut exhibition at Wallspace was a suite of sculptures composed of Bumbo-brand baby floor seats (all works 2015). These small, ergonomic plastic chairs were arranged on the floor in short chains of three, four, and five, and sat variously upside down or right-side up. They also looked unnervingly sticky: Lupo covered the seats in Soylent 1.0, the beige, mineral-rich meal-replacement paste invented by a group of impoverished tech entrepreneurs in San Francisco, who released it as an open-source recipe. Each chain is topped off with a particular type of plastic imitation sushi (hence the sculptures’ titles, e.g., Super Realistic Deluxe Tuna or Snapper). The chains were positioned so that they created a broken ring on the floor, their vaguely molar-like forms and arrangement suggesting a set of teeth.

Entering this deconstructed mouth was another orally fixated sculpture, Bone Dance, a long chain of femur-shaped dog chews—Nylabone Galileos in “Souper” and “Wolf” sizes. An electric cord passed through these slender white objects and connected to FEED-SEED, a Rubbermaid dolly on which two industrial-size grain containers, Rubbermaid Brutes, were stacked. The cable powered an iPad and a screen recessed into a car headrest, playing a screen saver–like video of a bone bouncing around a void. A set of dish racks covered in Fresh Step kitty litter was stacked into a column on the wall, bringing to mind the jumbling of the edible seen in Jason Rhoades’s 2002 PeaRoeFoam, his “revolutionary new material” composed of peas, fish eggs, and foam balls.

One of the suggestions in a recent New Yorker article on Soylent (“The End of Food”) was that certain “users” may start to differentiate between eating for social reasons, or for pleasure, and eating efficiently to stay alive. In comparison to Soylent, whose color recalls both baby food and baby excrement, the plastic sushi appears absurdly decorative and refined. In Octopus, the sushi pieces register as ornate: soft curves of pearlescent white with mauve frills. Tearing a real octopus apart with your teeth is a sensuous luxury; these plastic fish bits might as well be chew toys for adults.

Lupo’s sculptures are sensory signal jams that trouble the stability of categories and use value (chew it? sit on it? lick it? clean it up?), and as such they can be read as extensions of Surrealist projects such as Georges Bataille’s informe: “not only an adjective having a given meaning,” as the writer insisted, “but a term that serves to bring things down [déclasser] in the world.” Cat litter, baby seats, and dog toys are stuff that is literally down in the world; they drag us toward the horizontal, closer to the floor. Similar to Rhoades before her, Lupo proposes a form of double abjection that is suggested by both the substances themselves and their lowly commercial associations. For these materials also speak to issues of care and dependency. Like other artists of her generation, Lupo draws attention to the formal vocabulary of the corporate realm, as well as to the strange poetry of branding—the infantilized names of Bumbo, or Rubbermaid Brutes—which gives her work a different kind of bite. If there’s a latent strain of sadomasochism here, it’s one that casts humans as subordinate to the power of those who are in the business of feeding us: We’re at the seed feed, down on all fours.

Laura McLean-Ferris