Critic's Pick

Feb 19, 2016 / by Jason Foumberg / artforum

Alex Chitty
PATRON
673 N Milwaukee Ave
January 23–March 5

As the term “intelligent design” already has a use, we should appropriate it for art. It could describe the way artists assign consciousness to designed objects and the way consumers implant personae into mass-produced items. Alex Chitty’s still-life sculptures are sprinkled with this kind of metaphysical power, animating ceramic jugs, mugs, tools, trinkets, and other artifacts. Common and rare, old and new, and natural and faux objects are mounted on shelving in Chitty’s museum of material history—domestically scaled but conceptually aiming to tickle the fourth dimension.

Six modular sculptures were born out of one, the mother object, titled The Sun-Drenched Neutral That Goes with Everything (Unit 1), 2015–16, which gives shape, proportion, and suggested function to a set of furniture—their compositions accumulate into clever riddles. It is initially unclear what is handmade and what was found in the desert, but the question—and the visual quest—is part of the installation’s charm. It turns out the metal shelves were welded by the artist, who carved their walnut and oak drawers in a mimicry of high-end furniture and cast in concrete, brass, and bronze the flower stamens and coral. The material reversals have a kind of delightful irony sans cynicism. Some broken things, like a mug’s handle, are repaired while others, such as a splintered wood skateboard in The Sun-Drenched Neutral That Goes with Everything (Unit 6), 2016, are displayed like souvenirs. These curated displays weave a modern folklore about why certain objects come into our lives and how we preserve them with stories.

The furniture and knickknacks here reference lifestyle catalogues, where things insist they have a role in your life, re-coded by Chitty in an algorithm of intention and taste we might call intelligent design.