A roughly hewn slab of marbled granite juts from the wall of Lower East Side gallery On Stellar Rays. Atop the granite sit two circles: one a speckled ceramic lens-like object, the other a framed photograph of a violent scene.
“I was thinking about the way we capture photographic information,” explained JJ Peet, standing beside the sculpture, titled UPLiNK, which forms part of his solo exhibition MAGiCSTANCE, opening tonight. “Who’s taking the picture, where are they uploading it to and what filters is it passing through so that you and I are getting that news?”
Peet, a New York based artist who was selected by Tom Sachs as a Future Great” for Art Review and who will soon be summer resident of the prestigious European Ceramic Workcentre, has spent much of his career considering the camera as a “capture device” and how this “influences our society.” To this end, his work has largely concerned itself with how we — as viewers and humans — come to understand our condition in relation to a far broader context than what’s presented to us by the media.
“He had a video series called ‘The TV Show,’” said Candice Madey, owner and director of On Stellar Rays, recalling Peet’s involvement in a 2009 group show she curated. “Every week he’d go out in the world and pull sound clips and images, video things and create 10-minute topical news feeds, which we’d live broadcast from the gallery.”
Through these broadcasts, Peet granted himself the freedom to bombard the viewer with “information.” By moving toward sculpture with his recent Stilife series (of which MAGiCSTANCE forms a part), Peet is now challenging himself to effectively condense the energy and ideas contained within those broadcasts into some sort of essential form — a collage of objects.
“When I make these things I stand back and really try to think about the planet from a spaceship,” said Peet, arching his bushy eyebrows as he articulated his attempt to communicate universal concepts that stretch both place and time.
SHiELDNEWS perhaps best epitomizes this ambition.
In this sculpture, a black-and-white freeze frame of footage featuring a “classic battle between one faction and another” sits rather comically juxtaposed beside a Victorian-esque figurine couple, glancing at a sheet of paper. Within the collision of these seemingly disparate images lies a key for understanding the show’s title and concept, MAGiCSTANCE.
“My mom’s an antiques dealer and I pulled these guys out of her basement. They were looking at information and I thought there was something there,” said Peet, recalling the origin of the figurine.
Like much of the objects that “filter into [Peet’s] studio,” the figurine lay around for a year, until Peet suddenly remembered them about a month ago, while staring at the image of the baton-wielding soldiers.
“I know when I’m onto something because it kind of gives me a shiver and there’s this weird connection I can feel. It’s in those moments when you’re paying close attention, this subconscious ‘thing’ will come through and it all just clicks together.”
From there, though, the process is only half-complete, as Peet attempts to convey this “guttural, under-the-radar energy” to an audience through his sculptural composition. His hope is that the “formal quality of the sculpture” might draw the viewer into his work, communicating his concepts. “Brain, to hand, to object,” states his manifesto. MAGiCSTANCE.
As to these concepts, much of what’s contained within the universal imagery of Peet’s exhibit pertains to violence. In one sense it’s a bleak outlook but conversely, in the way he blurs time and materials, there is a more existential view of human nature and the fact that beyond specific instances of violence depicted by media, for better or worse, life continues.
“I love dual meanings. Take the words still life, get rid of a couple l’s and you get Stilife. That’s what these sculptures are, moments of time that can be looked at now or 3000 years from now, and still sort of be understood as this thing that is always happening.”
MAGiCSTANCE opens tonight from 6 to 8pm at the On Stellar Rays gallery, 1 Rivington Street and runs till July 31.