Magazine article Artforum International

Bill Davenport

Magazine article Artforum International

Bill Davenport

Article excerpt

ANGSTROM GALLERY

The eighteen small works in Bill Davenport's latest show ranged from boyish sight gags like Bummer, 1999, an enameled bean can and golf ball arranged to suggest a missed putt, to the inscrutable fluff of Pair of Lint Sculptures, 1998, in which a couple of fat, ill-formed pancakes made from the detritus of a clothes dryer are displayed with absurd care on a neat little white shelf. The tension between slick gallery presentation and deliberate craftlessness was a constant in the show, as was the impression that one had entered a realm of flattened hierarchies where transgression against conventional ideas of significance was a given.

When they aren't punch lines, Davenport's titles are frequently deadpan descriptions, as in the lint sculptures and GO Mitten, 1998, a child-size pink mitten that bears the eponymous command stitched in green yarn across its palm. Presented upright and palm forward in the gesture typically used to signal "stop," the piece contains an unresolvable contradiction in its fuzzy childishness. Add the name, and you get something like a Zen koan by Bart Simpson, irritating and disarming at the same time.

Built into Davenport's habitual use of found objects and debased materials and his debunking of notions of social and aesthetic importance is a lighthearted interrogation of the problematics of representation. This emerges in a number of his earnestly dumb objects, from Snow Cans, 1999, with its commercial plastic snow, to Sugarloaf Replica, 1998, a passable wadded-up-and-molded-aluminum -foil model of the actual mountain. …

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