Los Angeles

George Egerton-Warburton, The bus metaphor, 2017, ink-jet print, dirt, oak, paper, glass, 16 x 20 x 2".

George Egerton-Warburton, The bus metaphor, 2017, ink-jet print, dirt, oak, paper, glass, 16 x 20 x 2".

George Egerton-Warburton

Artist Curated Projects

George Egerton-Warburton, The bus metaphor, 2017, ink-jet print, dirt, oak, paper, glass, 16 x 20 x 2".

For “The weapon soup boils over, as stocks in metaphors plummet,” George Egerton-Warburton’s first solo show in Los Angeles, the Australian artist showed three kinetic sculptures—Sisyphean motors powering nothing—and a suite of photographs from 2017. He pasted text on each of the images and ensconced the collages in crudely assembled shadow boxes, into which he deposited desiccated California soil. The photos comprise groupings of bucolic sheep, mobs grazing in the landscape of remote Western Australia. Taken in 2013 by Egerton-Warburton’s father on his farm upon the artist’s request, the pictures are expressions of delay and manifestations of implacable distance, even if rather literally framed by more proximate stuff. That the prints are of near-cinematic quality—with high horizons and pastures shrouded in mist—only furthers the sense of uncanny affect.

Yet Egerton-Warburton thwarts whatever nostalgia clings to the regional agriculture of his formative years (what he refers to as “being inside a symptom”) by juxtaposing the obedient, corralled, and ear tag–bearing ewes quixotically facing the camera with snippets of unruly musings. One black-and-white photo (Advanced course in grammar), showing the animals dwarfed by tall trees, was affixed to an aluminum foil background, where it was bracketed by roughly cut scare quotes. A fortune cookie–like banner stuck to the surface near the bottom of a color photograph of a dusk scene (The measured response of a machine undergoing intensive therapy) broke the lusciously portentous spell of twilight, reading THE FROTH ON THAT CAPPUCCINO IS AN INFOGRAPHIC FOR RURAL CONFLICT IN THE SUMMER MONTHS, CHICKENS, SHEEP, DOGS, ETC. Another such passage (in Time and space), which was the longest communiqué, described homemade exercise equipment, LONG, DRUNK BUSHWALKS, cooking lamb chops, and so forth. Written in the first person, the scenario ends with the narrator sweaty from preparing a meal, mounting a desk, and jogging atop books on neoliberalism before slipping and cracking open his head. Cue the laugh track: HE WAS RUNNING ON EMPTY.

Egerton-Warburton previously has used invoices as generators of rule-based poetry, and here, too, he took on language as a kind of soundtrack for the visual works. Along with the actual humming noise issuing from his Duchampian bachelor machines, the visual-cum-verbal cacophony unified the installation. Egerton-Warburton set the three electric-powered devices on low, makeshift pedestals (one a cardboard box, as if to willfully reiterate the dumb functionality of the support), from which the motors of a juicer, windshield wiper, and drill, respectively, droned on purposively: drive without resolution. As in a recent show at Sutton Gallery in Melbourne, where he showed five other such Rube Goldberg–esque contraptions in the company of diminutive cots laid out in the manner of a World War II infirmary, here Egerton-Warburton conjured—through less explicit means—a vignette of unproductive and unredeemed pathology, of surrogacy and prosthetics.

Perhaps it bears mentioning that the artist did not exhibit his father’s photographs in the Sutton show, saving them instead for California. In the former site, they would have been closer to their source. At a small space in East Los Angeles, this resonance read differently, of course, the embarrassed sentimentality not only obviated by a different geography and history of acculturation but also posed as representation from the first. Still, the title, “The weapon soup boils over, as stocks in metaphors plummet,” likewise invoked war, if this time anticipatory rather than retrospective. We live in times of “covfefe” and lapsed meanings, together with militarized subjects. Just because something signals nothing does not mean it avoids real consequences.

Suzanne Hudson