New York

Brian Belott, Untitled (Fan Puff), 2016, mixed media, 83 × 73 × 81⁄2". From the series “Puuuuuuuuuffs, 2014–.

Brian Belott, Untitled (Fan Puff), 2016, mixed media, 83 × 73 × 81⁄2". From the series “Puuuuuuuuuffs, 2014–.

Brian Belott

Gavin Brown's Enterprise | Downtown

If—or, rather, when—the next ice age comes, it might look a lot like Brian Belott’s exhibition at the Chinatown, New York, space of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. In this show, three industrial freezers—each Untitled, 2018, and parked in a back room of the gallery—housed a number of rectangular assemblages made from materials as disparate as mixing cups (arrayed in a rather vulvar way), hair gel, a hand massager, a weight from a grandfather clock, Jelly Bellies, and an abacus. Because the objects were vertically suspended and encased in ice, form gave way to brightly saturated color. The room was dark except for the internal lighting of the cold storage; the pieces glowed as totemic paeans to postindustrial collapse. They were both hilarious and ethereal, particularly one sculpture that contained shards of mica, calcite, and a kitchen supply tray. Its symmetry and muted palette suggested Damascene inlay or the carapace of an insect.

At the other end of the gallery was Shopping for Color, 1996–98, featuring a grid of Post-its, each one depicting a shopping cart rendered in a different shade of tempera paint. The self-styled “master of discard” chooses his media by hue. One could imagine Belott—part Dr. Frankenstein, part irrepressible hoarder—careening gleefully around a faded strip mall, variously stopping by discount, electronics, and crafts stores for all manner of tchotchkes and gewgaws. Yet all of this was a song of fire and ice, minus the “sexposition,” gratuitous violence, and medieval skullduggery of George R. R. Martin’s series. A popular YouTube clip shows Belott with his hair on fire—he extinguishes it in slapstick haste as sirens wail in the background. Unfortunately, many of his artworks fared less well in a studio blaze last year, the effects of which could be seen in the charred edges of several of the exhibition’s pieces. The eight drawings of rictal faces from the 2013 “Mustard Drawings” series, cheap calculators, and television remotes—done in mustard (not the color but the condiment)—were all burned in the same way, suggesting that they might have been piled up in a stack during the fire. The deliciously s’more-like and rainbow-crazy objects from his mixed-media series “Puuuuuuuuuffs,” 2014–, were composed of layers of vibrantly hued paper, between which is sandwiched cotton batting, in which obsolete objects are often embedded. One of them, Untitled (Puff), 2018, was an orange-and-green confection housing a glowing remote. (Nearly a third of the piece was burnt; because of this, we could see its wooden infrastructure.) Meanwhile, the shimmering copper- and crimson-striped finish of the large-scale Untitled (Fan Puff), 2016, a rather large-scale work, invoked a conflagration in action. Many of the “Puuuuuuuuuffs” feature simple electric window fans, but Untitled (Puff) includes a motion-activated hair dryer, which blasted hot air at approaching viewers. The artist has a gift for gags.

The small tech devices portrayed in the mustard drawings were positioned around the main gallery on simple wooden plinths, each one leaning a different way, like a funny little flower stalk. But the gizmos were encrusted in sand, paint, and small pebbles, as if they had been dug up on a day far in the future, long after the rising seas have drowned banal office complexes and bland suburban homes. Surrounded by all of Belott’s ravaged detritus, one couldn’t help but think of the encroaching tide of global warming, and certainly of the viral web comic by KC Green, which shows a smiling, bug-eyed dog in a flaming room who says, “This is fine.” Ha—if only.

Rahel Aima