New York

Daphne Fitzpatrick, Carson McCullers in a Suit, 2018, Duratrans, 22 × 27".

Daphne Fitzpatrick, Carson McCullers in a Suit, 2018, Duratrans, 22 × 27".

Daphne Fitzpatrick

Last year, I slipped on a banana peel while walking down the street. Just a little lurching wobble: I was actually more incredulous than hurt. It’s the stuff of vaudeville, slapstick: the kind of event you think could never actually happen in real life—until it does. Daphne Fitzpatrick’s “3 Dollar Bill,” full of such moments, destabilized the viewer in much the same way. One-liners abounded, with plenty of objects that Acme would have proudly listed in its catalogue: a slice of Swiss cheese (is there any other type in cartoons?) made from beeswax and cantilevered on a rare buffalo nickel, a handsaw straight out of a Looney Tunes tool kit, and lots of “bright ideas” (i.e., lightbulbs).

The gallery was dominated by a plywood ramp that led to a pair of large windows. Placed on and around the ramp were several makeshift lamps and a weathered wheel chock, among other items. Installed across from the ramp was Twenty Feet on Fulton Street (all works 2018), a sizable photo of a tire tread in close-up. Looking down from the top of the incline induced a mild vertigo, as if the viewer were Wile E. Coyote suspended in midair. The show was palpably suffused by an old-timey affect, a quality likely connected to the grab bag of male archetypes Fitzpatrick has alluded to over the years. The artist must have shaped “3 Dollar Bill” around the character of the dandy, that debonair and androgynous cultural flaneur who sports a cane or jauntily tips a hat. The artist also brought in lots of dick jokes: The sculpture Peg Leg, for instance, featured a jumbo pencil affixed to the bottom of a figurine—part battered fisherman, part Rodin’s Thinker—that was mounted on a very phallic and shabby-looking Masonite pedestal.

Thanks to her ruthlessly editorial eye, Fitzpatrick did not let the preponderance of found objects bearing the patina of age sink into hokeyness. Take, for example, the quintet of beat-up things displayed on a mirrored corner shelf supported by an extremely elongated F-clamp. The work, Health and Wealth in 5 Parts, included a trio of disassembled trombones, a woodblock-y assemblage, a rolled-up poster tied with shoelaces, a rubbery machine belt (which would make a great slingshot), and the aforementioned handsaw. All of these seemingly random bits of junk were as opaque as the work’s title. But as the name of the exhibition suggests, myriad queer histories were present.

Take Carson McCullers in a Suit, a translucent, double-exposed photograph of a lightbulb, here taped high on to a window. The titular writer is known for her Southern Gothic fiction and poetry, failed romances with women, and penchant for dressing in men’s suits. The particularly elegant Querelle, a bulb on a cord draped companionably over a length of oak leaning away from the wall (there was an awful lot of bending and leaning here) borrows its title from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s controversial last film, famous for its unrepentant homoeroticism and embrace of incestuous desire. The sculpture could have been a kind of streetlight, something hunky Brad Davis, who played the movie’s titular character, would have lingered beneath, cruising. And let’s not forget that slice of Swiss, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, in reference to that old Hollywood love affair that, of course, was never cheesy at all.

Rahel Aima