Clive Murphy: Random Composition Generator
Elijah Wheat Showroom, Bushwick, NY
May 19 -June 24, 2018
Clive Murphy is a modernist, or at least he knows what one is and will give it a go even if he's not sure if it's worth it.
He has a suite of small-scale sculptures and a larger collaborative piece at Elijah Wheat Showroom in Bushwick that lead me to think that I know how he feels about the modern world's intrusion on rural life. Like me he grew up in the middle of nowhere. He in Ireland and me in Wales. At least a "somewhere" whose lack of political heft created a particular ambiguous attitude to change. The "New" was threatening.
There was this sense of the landscape being viewed as material to be exchanged and used without being sustained. As the memory of the War receded, progress and avarice traveled together across the countryside.
Post -war Britain was still pushing its modernist agenda in the '60s and '70s. In '68 the English government flooded the village of Capel Celyn to create a reservoir -- Llyn Celyn -- in order to supply Liverpool and Wirral in England with water for industry. The event helped create militant wings of the Plaid Cymru nationalist party. English holiday homes were burned and low level dissension simmered until the creation of a Welsh Assembly in 2006. The relationship between the needs of the government and of the people became progressively more devastating for the Irish.
I equate this image:
"Untitled (#9)" with the conflicting needs of the "at that time" new technology and those of "the auld sod."
TV, of course, had a role in this. Forming the gobbledygook into mouth-sized dumplings. Britain had the most comprehensive world news access as a result of its overseas diplomatic and spy service. And the sense of the new technology bringing the news from around the world was most finely felt by those in the corners of the country
This sculpture, made from matchsticks, could've featured in a '70s magazine show like That’s Life. Showing quaint "hands on" skill in praise of the march of information. Modern artists didn't understand how their ideas would be used by those in power. Courbusier's working class flats would become the template for dirty, dangerous housing estates presided over by a massive, very unfemale Henry Moore bronze.
Murphy adopts the persona of the naive potting shed hobbyist attempting to take on the tropes of contemporary art with matchsticks and ceiling wax.
He has made a group of beautifully made, often hilarious sculptures that bring to mind all kinds of other art works but in the lowliest of materials. They are self consciously "small ticket" items that critique the filmic grandiosity of International Blue Chip Art by looking local and handmade.
The centerpiece of the show is a piece that lampoons the Surrealist "Painting Machine" concept. But Random Composition Generator instead of revealing the subconscious through random image making argues that there is nothing of value to be said by the unconscious. It relies on the beauty of process for content. You can randomly generate an image right there in the gallery and come away with a polaroid of your "painting."
I wont spoil it by describing it to you.
Go there and make one!
And anyway, small galleries like Elijah Wheat Showroom run by Carolina Wheat-Nielsen & Liz Nielsen and that stage socially aware art projects should get your support. - Millree Hughes