On ViewPeninsula Art Space
Jan Baracz: Mutiny’S Darling
December 15, 2022 – February 11, 2023
Jan Baracz’s exhibition Mutiny’s Darling at Peninsula Art Space provides a map of the overlooked. The artist utilizes materials marked by subtlety, favoring an inconspicuous tonality that exists somewhere between the woodshed and the boathouse, to address the impinged and imperceptible experience of traversing the ordinary. Baracz reveals the submerged poetics of the unattended—asterisms of the fugitive possibilities easily lost within urban landscapes. Recalling Giovanni Morelli’s interest in the unconscious detail, which lays in wait within the rubbish-heap of observation, Baracz is able to examine the cultural ideology of looking by attending to what is discarded. This is an impulse that recalls Baudelaire’s ragpicker, who “collates the annals of intemperance, the capharnaum of waste,” or the Surrealists and Dadaists, who similarly understood what can be revealed within flea markets and thrift shops, privileging materials that are found and scavenged over those that are purchased. Mutiny’s Darling offers assemblages of the cast-off, allowing us to see what can be learned from materials with no urgency or certainty.
The works in the front room move through plywood, broken glass, and the fragmentary offcuts of molding and cornices. The moments of found objects interacting with the plywood surfaces upon which they are often staged seem quotational and prosaic, distanced from each other and acting as competing or harmonic chords. A red button in Alarm Rise (2022) is darkly humorous, a bathos-laden semiotics of emergency without the possibility of being saved. However, at moments the works adjust to become pictorial, floating into the territories of nightscape and cityscape. Whereas Lethe’s Lure of Lateral Music (2022) evokes an interpretation of sheet music, When Nature Finds A Way with Nurture (2022) stands somewhere in the middle of a landscape and a classroom. A register of rusty, smashed, weathered and botched intensities are kludged into a moody series of flatbed combines. Doomsday Clock (2022) and The Post-Human will be Beautiful (2022) both utilize cracks in ceramic and mirrors to elicit a hopeless millenarian gravitas. Speaking generally, the work benefits from a larger and more panoramic scale, where Baracz can take full advantage of negative space in relation to his materials.
The Weak Link (2021) shifts significations within a single object. A shovel adorned with something knit translates itself into a cello at the handle, producing an erotics of slippage and transition between materials. As boundaries are deterritorialized and trespassed into new meanings, Baracz is able to fully indulge his interest in skeuomorphic tension, where ironies and contrasts within materials run into new identifications, specific but always esoteric and undisclosed. His sculptures recall the semiotic codings of Cal Lane and the shape-shifting material translations of Hugh Hayden, but Baracz works within the intimacy of a vernacular glance.
It is Baracz’s video piece Eyebeads By Worlds Held Fast II (n.d.) in the back of the gallery that most clearly frames the ideologies of the assemblages in the front. Two images are projected next to each other, each changing in at a different rhythm, a conversation between color, shape, and repetition. Engaging in pattern recognition, it is an image gin rummy that at an exciting point starts stacking grid after grid after grid. It’s a kind of “I’ll see you and I’ll raise you” gesture, but carried out through images taken by an observant commuter, attentive to the growth of moss between the cracks, interior natures, the vivid and unintended surprises always fighting for presence. Transparencies and overlays are frequent motifs—the moment where the silhouette of a person’s shadow intersects with that of a tree, or the moment when a twisting chain link fence casts shadows through the veins of a leaf caught in it.
Although the patterns and skeuomorphic tensions of the exhibition could be perceived as a pareidolic neurosis, an impulse to scale the fragmentary up to macrocosmic scales, Baracz is at something different. His task is searching for what is occluded, a commuter sublime found within the many tears and cracks within our urban sprawl. A dead bird on a steel floor plate lays with its body at a diagonal perfectly parallel to the diamonds on its axis. Within the weft and warp of the city’s architectures, specifically its concrete and its hardest, most inhuman textures, Baracz delivers the exhilarating feeling of finding the sublime when you’re not expecting it. The pressures of urban functionality and density create aesthetic survivors in many ways. Baracz tries to drop out of the hyper-saturation of consumerism, instead looking for a different speed and register of tones. The Eyebeads video sequence ends on two images of the longing for an unknown elsewhere: two windows, one obscured with condensation, the other looking out from the passenger car of a train onto a great sea.