‘How people use public toilets,’ Alexander Carver writes across the surface of a recent work, appropriating the form of a public service announcement for painting and rarefying the otherwise anonymous voice of government language. Written as a fragment that hovers between inquiry and imperative, Carver’s painting qua announcement only passes as casual signage, and in fact, issues a command that cuts across the seemingly secure positions of artist and spectator to examine the unseen bureaucratic structures that predicate spaces of collective experience. The blunt administrative tone masks the work’s political address, extracting a culture of coercion latent in otherwise benign diagrams of the constructed world. Carver examines the individual in the process of being named, revealing the authorial mediations that subject and subordinate persons to limited routines of behavior through the design of social spaces. Painting, perpetually in the act of transgressing its own material identity, offers an antidote to the constricted experience of bodies increasingly bound by a new reality of interpersonal surveillance. In the confluence of conceptual and perceptual augmentation, painting mocks the imposing state of institutional decay, intervening in overstrained systems to announce new social designs aimed at reversing the compromised foundations of public space.
Call Out Tools, a collaborative exhibition of new work by Alexander Carver, Pieter Schoolwerth, and Avery Singer, extends these concerns through a conversation in and about painting that considers the medium as an essential tool for new building. The artists bring not only their work into interaction, but engage their practices as a kind of urgent group consultation outlining alternative ways for generative coexisting. Referring to AutoCAD spatial rendering software and contemporary social phenomena, the title spans the exhibition’s digital and physical scope. An elaborate, collectively designed virtual model forms the framework for the show, from which each artist’s work is derived. The model proposes a radically new kind of public space, at once seductive and antiseptic, full of magnificent interconnected scenes that appear like a technological wonderland, triggering a nearly hedonistic excitement. Hot tubs and pools abound, as well as DJ stands, high-end workout equipment, panoramic televisions, and a concert stage, all situated in a futuristic structure of elevated, glass-bottom cisterns. But the Carver-Schoolwerth-Singer park of tomorrow is not merely a fantasy construct. Instead, their virtual design adheres to the laws of the material world, following rational systems and the physics of materials. Even the most extravagant design element—twisting tubes of pink and red that make up a vein and artery network—forms a plumbing system carrying water from the cisterns to various pools and bathrooms. Here, the questions of public norms and individual agency, of leisure and necessity, and of waste and resources determine the landscape of artistic vision.
Seemingly arbitrary set pieces punctuate the park, which upon closer examination develop an iconography oscillating between the nefarious and the wholly permissive. Architecture turns punitive, and absolute transparency absorbs any refuge of privacy, risking the boundary between aesthetic purity and the pornographic. Out of this virtual template, a zone of collaborative habitation one step removed from the world, Carver, Schoolwerth, and Singer derive new vocabularies for painting, scrutinizing the dangers implicit to current social relations as a schematic for constructing new institutions of organized living.
– Mike Cavuto