The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) is taking on the comforts of quiet domesticity in a series of exhibitions.
What if, instead of baking fresh whole-wheat blueberry muffins, your oven cooked up some fresh, thumping beats? What if your deluxe master bath was made up of construction-grade ductwork and recycled aluminum, something straight out of a post-apocalyptic shantytown, its exterior twisting, winding, rusted over and appearing ready to collapse at any second?
The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) is taking on the comforts of quiet domesticity in a series of exhibitions that challenge the way we think about “home” and domestic spaces at large. The works seem strange in theory, but wonderfully odd and captivating in practice.
Through the use of rather lowly materials—cast-off fiberglass, recycled aluminum, seemingly discarded scraps of wood—the artists, chosen for the exhibition by DCCA curators Maiza Hixson and J. Susan Isaacs, have redefined the notions of livable space. In fact, they’ve practically torn it down.
Veering left after entering the DCCA space, you’ll encounter a 10-foot steel behemoth constructed by well-known Philly artists the Dufala Brothers. Steven and Billy Dufala are known for their absurdist, almost surrealist takes on consumer culture and the waste it produces. Their exhibition, New Work, features just this one piece, but it’s so large, overwhelming and multifaceted that it would feel silly to include much else.
The brothers fabricated a little bathroom stall that smartly challenges the convention of a bathroom as a private space. The outside, constructed with air-duct pieces and complete with an exhaust fan, chimney and awning, is pierced by a few windows that allow guests to look into the raggedy toilet and sink. They’ve used the duct pieces before, in works for shows at Fleisher Ollman and the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, but here they appear more worn in and deconstructed. Visitors play tourist, guest and voyeur all at once, and it’s a slightly alienating experience. It’s like a Dadaist drawing come to life and theoretically deconstructed.
Deconstruction happens, very literally, around the corner in Under Construction I & II . The artists here—Adam Weir, Anthony Cervino, Joe Netta, Leah Bailis, Robert Guevara, Alexis Granwell, Ron Longsdorf, Michael Jones McKean, and Yoonmi Nam—use the materials of construction, like wood, PVC piping and Styrofoam, with the cornerstones of a home, dining chairs, house plants, to create unfinished places that cast something of an alchemy over the space. Finished, but simultaneously undone, they pull the wool back on what makes a space “complete.”
Of the two exhibitions, Under Construction I is decidedly more playful. Adam Weir’s drawings of semi-constructed spaces are alive with color—beams and ditches next to potting soil never looked this good in person. The Carlisle, Pa., resident has a sense of humor that rivals the Dufalas’, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The highlight of Under Construction II is a haunting, meditative piece by artist Ron Longsdorf. “Sinking Ship,” composed of fiberglass insulation, a plain dining room chair, a wooden shipping pallet, and a dangling flood light, is almost poetic in its simplicity. One is reminded of forgotten attics at grandma’s house, memories rotting away until there is little left but a few physical artifacts, cast in a faint, dingy glow. Though it appears to be an unfinished space, it feels more complete and conjures up more feelings of warmth, memory, and even isolation, than any completed, polished McMansion ever could.
Contraption: Devices in Art introduces an entirely new aspect of absurdity to the mix. The sculptural inventions on display here reconsider home spaces and objects in fantastical ways, involving various mechanisms and electronics to make pieces that are interactive. Tyler Held’s “Cross Culture” is a standout, turning an old oven/stove into a serious entertainment system, with a speaker and sub-woofer that crank out gangsta rap at full throttle. It aggressively (and humorously) takes aim at the middle-American ideal of domesticity and comforts, turning an emblem of the docile into the object of crunk. This isn’t retrofitting—its future fitting.
Tim Eads’ “Home on the Range” is similarly captivating, using an old stage coach as a means for a crazy, electrical science experiment. The epitome of interactive, it allows one to press buttons and pull levers to watch things light up, blow up and make noise. It’s a strange mash of past and present—if only miners could have lived in this thing when traveling out West.
New Work runs through May 13; Under Construction I runs through June 3; Under Construction II runs through June 10; Contraption runs through June 24. Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, 200 S. Madison St., Wilmington, Del. thedcca.org