Sculptural Puppeteer: A Review of Alex Chitty’s “Figs break open of themselves” at Patron

Newcity Art / Dec 2, 2022 / by Ally Fouts  / Go to Original

Alex Chitty, “Lifelong Conversations Between Women,” 2022. Fused ceramic bowls, pelicans from a hotel ashtray, ipe wood, black-oxide plated steel, soldered brass

Patron is the dwelling for Alex Chitty’s ecosystem of wall-based sculptures and photographs in “Figs break open of themselves.” Chitty, the sculptural puppeteer of sublime composition, creates invigorated pieces by combining familiar objects in unfamiliar ways. The objects are primarily sourced from within the home, comfortable and safe, and synthesized with one another by their positioning. Relying on texture and form amalgamates surprising combinations of material within the sculptures, and the photographs offer a two-dimensional plane to rest within.

Alex Chitty, detail of “Beautiful and menacing and slightly out of my control,” 2022. Cherry wood, cotton webbing, carved wooden bananas, melted plastic cups, powder coasted steel, 26 1/4 X 24 1/2 X 4 inches

“Figs break open of themselves (I, II, III)” (2020-22) serves as the footnote to the exhibition, providing a home base for which each additional piece can return to. The triptych is filled with elegant gestures and introduces the physical object as a form of mark-making that can be found in this entire body of work. The frame is expansive and balanced, punctuated by surprising moments of allure, like a gold chain reading “Name” hanging from the upper right corner, or the small Donald Duck figurine nestled in a hole within the wood. Most intriguing is what can be recognized as the backside of a photograph attached to the back of the wooden planks, with the face of the image facing the wall. Whether the image exists or not can’t be confirmed as there is no angle, no matter how hard the viewer cranes their neck, to which it can be seen. This exhibition’s specific artist-to-viewer relationship is established by this detail, and launches Chitty as the coy orchestrator of toeing the line between stubborn reservation and over-divulging, remaining earnest and poking fun.

“Yesterday was so Pretty” (2022) demonstrates Chitty’s masterful ability to create visually sound compositions, relying on the depth and textures of objects and intentional mark-making, then breathing life into them. The bleached oak plank creates a clean plane as a stack of six circles descend down the left side. Two painted wooden oranges rest gently on the right side on a small steel shelf. Though this pewter coat adds a surreal element to the fruit, the oranges are animated by their positioning, gently leaning on another in a moment of rest.

Alex Chitty, “Like a Mule Through Honey,” 2022. Porcelain bowls, spoons, cast concrete, plastic horse, brass, honey dripper, various woods, cotton furniture webbing, powder coated steel, 40 3/4 X 31 1/2 X 8 1/2 inches

The wall-based sculptures are made with familiar materials that rely on maintaining their honest form, yet the combination of objects camouflages that familiarity for a split second. In “Like a Mule Through Honey” (2022), a rectangle wooden frame houses thick strips of cotton fabric, protruding outward by wooden and brass dowels woven through. The central dowel is a honey dripper, its head poking out from the fabric on the right side. This sends the viewer’s eye into a zigzag down to the small platform extended from the lower left of the frame, holding a plastic horse figurine, and to its final resting place, a mint green bowl at the bottom. The resulting sculpture is stabilized and gratifying. The piece is activated by the imagined stream of honey, sticky and slow, seeping down from the dripper. “Like a Mule Through Honey” (2022) is a paramount example of Chitty’s ability to see objects encountered on a daily basis as what they are, and offer to the viewer what they could be.

Alex Chitty’s “Figs break open of themselves” at Patron, 1612 West Chicago. On view through January 28, 2023.