Los Angeles

B. Wurtz, Untitled, 2018, wood, string, buttons, acrylic paint, wire, 30 × 8 × 5 1⁄2".

B. Wurtz, Untitled, 2018, wood, string, buttons, acrylic paint, wire, 30 × 8 × 5 1⁄2".

B. Wurtz

Richard Telles Fine Art

B. Wurtz, Untitled, 2018, wood, string, buttons, acrylic paint, wire, 30 × 8 × 5 1⁄2".

What of the everyday? When bombast becomes routine, the quotidian is crushed to pieces and caked into something dense and foul. No rest for the weary. No rest, period. Small pleasures (that recipe, that friend, that story) are no longer spiritually fulfilling in quite the same way. Microaggressions, nightmares, and traumas cycle through one’s head: She came up the stairs and he was waiting, with his friend, to attempt to rape her. They laughed because (and we don’t have to assume) it happens every day. 

In four sculptures and ten wall-mounted assemblages on panels, B. Wurtz managed to make an argument for the affirming capacities of the everyday. These works were not intended to respond to the events contemporaneous with their exhibition—they were created before Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing and installed just a few days after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s name first became public—and yet, with a feckless predator of women in the highest office in the land, these recent events aren’t so much interruptions of the everyday as extrapolations whose effects may well have filtered into B. Wurtz’s studio. Circumstance circumscribes meaning, and in this instance leaves to art a seemingly insurmountable task: that of cutting through, supporting, inveighing, and countering. Art’s utility in these moments cannot be underestimated or ignored; art is think work, body work, soul work. Wurtz’s sculptures and panel assemblages, while not expressly political in their content, are political in their effects, making necessary space for experiences outside of outrage, experiences centered on the pleasures of material, minutiae, and formal relations. 

This is especially true of the panel assemblages (all works Untitled, 2018) that were on view here. Multicolored plastic nettings—the kind used to bundle and hold all manner of produce (and sometimes toys)—covered each modest wooden panel. Shoelaces were woven into some of the nets’ matrices, and bits of string kept these elements tied together, occasionally serving as decorative flourishes. Relishing a reduced vocabulary of media, these assemblages were both the sum of their constituent parts and a whole lot more. They demanded attention to details and their subsequent effects. What are the visual and sensory consequences when a shoelace droops far past the bottom edge of the panel it’s attached to? When the shoelace perfectly frames the shape of a purple deflated net, which rests on top of a red-netted panel like a child’s scribble of a ghost? When the closed bottom of a net (without fail always placed over the panel like a garment over a body—a garment with no hole for the head) is bent over and attached to itself? What else could these object relations connote? In focusing the viewer’s attention on these specifics, Wurtz provided respite without relinquishing emotional or intellectual rigor. I immediately thought of icon painting—the medieval Christian practice of the divine copy. Intimate scale, predetermined references. Funny, holy, pathetic: one, some, all, or none. And for all their material clarity—things largely stand for what they are—Wurtz’s assemblages remained sites of projection and sacralization, vessels of uncertainty, contingency, and precarity. They reflected the world, but in ways we wouldn’t expect, and this is art’s great value. 

Take, for example, a small sculpture comprised of a wooden base and metal wire stand, on which a line of colorful buttons dangled and appeared to melt into a small black puddle. The work’s form was playful, its humor distressing. To each button, or melted fragment of a button, a thin black string was tied, hanging at a right angle against the verticality that gravity proscribes. A week after I saw these works, this detail was what I remembered most distinctly: little resistances.