Art

Please Be Seated

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This last part of "Musical Chairs" has a hidden feature. Slightly off to the right, a passage leads through the walls of the enclosure. Inside, under the canopy of perches, is a chamber created by the hanging metal screening. It's empty, save for a white sculpture stand set directly opposite the opening and stacked with postcards tied into bundles with thread.

According to Folkestad, this final part is "about keeping nature outside." But taken together with the installation's penultimate feature, the swings, the ultimate stage is also about sexuality. It doesn't take Freud to interpret the relationship between the constant to-and-fro of the swings and the almost hidden entrance of the womb-like chamber opposite. In this show rife with references to nature and culture, there's also no missing the import of the title: One or the other will grab the last chair--and Folkestad's banking on nature.

In contrast to Folkestad's poetic ambiguity, another regional installation-art star, John McEnroe, is sardonic and direct. He's also a prankster, as evidenced by the artist's statement for his current exhibition, Plastique, at ILK It's a page of tool ads from a newspaper.

McEnroe, an adjunct art professor at Metro (he's currently on leave), has long been interested in using mundane, everyday objects in his work. Since coming to Denver five years ago, he has exhibited such articles as panels of floor covering and stacks of plastic plates. For Plastique, though, McEnroe cast ordinary items in Dupont Elvax, an easy-to-use plastic, instead of displaying assemblages of ready-made objects. "I seriously considered showing brand-new things," he explains, "but then I found this technology for plastic casting. With this plastic, I can control the color better than with paint, so I was able to get all these designer colors." The pastels and jewel-toned colors are a change for McEnroe, who previously used the primaries exclusively.

While McEnroe may be better known for exhibiting ready-mades, he's hardly a stranger to plastic fabrication. Since 1995 he's been a studio assistant for the legendary John DeAndrea, making molds, casting sculptures in vinyl and chasing the finished cast. And even before McEnroe began his association with DeAndrea, he was interested in plastic as an art material. The stunningly minimal piece "Red Hot," essentially a red plastic shower curtain that hangs across the small ILK @ PIRATE SPACE, DATES BACK TO 1994 AND WAS MADE BY MCENROE JUST BEFORE HE CAME TO DENVER FROM OHIO. THE INTENSITY OF THE COLOR AND THE HEAVY DRAPE OF THE LATEX-SATURATED FABRIC ADD MONUMENTALITY TO THIS OTHERWISE SEEMINGLY PROSAIC ARTICLE.

OTHER THAN "RED HOT," EVERYTHING IN PLASTIQUE WAS MADE FOR THE SHOW, A GROUP OF RELATED PIECES THAT SOMETIMES BLUR THE LINE BETWEEN INSTALLATION AND SCULPTURE. MCENROE BOTH LAMPOONS AND HONORS SUBURBAN LIFE WITH THESE BRIGHTLY COLORED PLASTIC CASTS; THE IMPETUS FOR THE SHOW, HE SAYS, IS THE FEELING "EVERY GOOD AMERICAN GETS AT HOME DEPOT."

IN "CHICAGO SPECIAL," THE FIRST CAST-PLASTIC PIECE HE DID, MCENROE LINES UP A SERIES OF NINE CASTS BASED ON DIFFERENT TOILET PLUNGERS. "AT FIRST I CONSIDERED CASTING THE PLUNGERS IN BRONZE, BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY COSTLY," HE SAYS. "THEN I FOUND ELVAX." SINCE THE CASTS ARE EXHIBITED IN THE RAW STATE THEY HAVE WHEN THEY EMERGE FROM THE MOLD, THEY DON'T LOOK LIKE ACTUAL PLUNGERS. "I LIKE THE APPEARANCE OF THE CASTING WHEN IT FIRST COMES OUT," HE EXPLAINS.

CONTINUING THE SUBURBAN THEME IS "LAWN BOY," A CAST OF A LAWNMOWER THAT'S HIDDEN BEHIND "RED HOT." THE PLASTIC BODY OF "LAWN BOY," WHICH SPORTS A REAL HANDLE, WAS MADE FROM MCENROE'S "SLOSH PIT" OF SURPLUS PLASTIC. AS A RESULT, ITS SURFACE IS COVERED WITH MULTI-COLOR SWIRLS.

THE CENTERPIECE OF PLASTIQUE IS "PASSION FRUIT & OTHER HEAVY-DUTY EQUIPMENT," A WALL COVERED WITH SCORES OF RAINBOW-HUED CASTS OF TOOLS. THESE SCULPTURES, WHICH MCENROE ENVISIONS AS "HAPPY MEAL TOOLS FOR ADULTS," HAVE BEEN MOUNTED ON FACTORY-PRODUCED WIRE BRACKETS IN THE MANNER OF A STORE DISPLAY (AND NOT UNLIKE THAT TOOL-AD ARTIST'S STATEMENT, WHICH HANGS ADJACENT TO "PASSION FRUIT"). THE TOOLS, WHICH INCLUDE A GIANT PIPE WRENCH, A WEED TRIMMER AND A WIDE ARRAY OF HAMMERS, ARE QUITE BEAUTIFULLY MADE AND COLORED; MCENROE'S INSTINCTUAL AND SEEMINGLY RANDOM ARRANGEMENT FURTHER ENHANCES THE VISUAL EFFECT.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia