Monday, July 18, 2016

Art I'm Looking At: Joey Enos Sculpture at Hammerfriar Gallery, Healdsburg

A new show at Hammerfriar Gallery, in Healdsburg, is something of a departure from the more sophisticated fare usually on display there (the just-ended show of photography by Elizabeth Sunday was superb). The gallery is now showing sculpture by Joey Enos, who works in what is essentially painted, plastic-covered styrofoam.

The sculptures (some free-standing, some fairly flat and wall-hung) are visually appealing; they are brightly colored, playful, and light-hearted. They evoke cartoons, theme park scenery, or the kind of theater set that aims to create a stylized fa├žade rather than to imitate reality. Enos carves styrofoam to look like wood—not real wood but cartoon illustrations of wood—and so the "wood" is twice removed from actual wood. There are oversized, bent nails (these, too made of carved foam) in some pieces that look like something Wiley E. Coyote might have hastily hammered into a contraption for catching the Roadrunner. Other sculptures feature large "bolts." One piece is a large slice of Swiss cheese suspended by chains within a simple "wood" frame. Other works are a little more complex, totem-like, and resembling driftwood sculptures—albeit garishly painted ones.

The paint is actually pigmented resin sprayed onto the styrofoam forms, a process the artist subcontracts to a spraying plant. The effect is flat and un-nuanced. While Enos designs these pieces and oversees their production, a substantial portion of their creation is outsourced. There is no "hand of the artist" to see here and what there is to see is quickly absorbed. The sculptures are fun to look at, perhaps, and, having talked with the artist at the opening reception, I appreciate that he is in earnest, but I wonder if these works are capable of sustaining long interest?  
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