Boxes serve the purpose of containing or storing items for any given amount of time. The current show at Galerie Hertz, “Boxed Sets,” is a collection of juxtaposed found objects constructed with strong compositional design elements. Many of the objects incorporated into these mixed media wall sculptures appear at some point in our daily lives. These discarded items have been re-contextualized into works of art bearing resemblance to modernist abstract paintings. While viewing this show, one may feel compelled to step closer to investigate the abundant variation in textures and colors in attempts to determine the exact media used. Thus, the viewer is invited into the individual boxed-in worlds created by Brad Devlin.
A number of the objects Devlin utilizes are easily recognizable. For example, a “ROAD CLOSED” sign comprises much of the composition in the work titled “Collision Course.” The intended purpose of a road sign is to grab the attention of drivers. In this piece, the sign becomes an element used to catch the eye of the viewer. The original functionality of other objects within the art pieces are more difficult to decipher. “Percolator” contains objects of metallic, wood, rubber, plastic, and glass. The geometric composition of shapes and various textures is visually pleasing, though the specific objects used are unclear. Upon speaking with the artist, I learned the black circular forms beneath sanded glass were previously plastic rings found on store hangers to indicate clothing size. If one views this piece from various angles, the individual clothing sizes begin to become apparent.
Though the work is sculptural in its process, Devlin seems to be in dialogue with modern painters such as Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich. The tilted squares incorporated into Devlin’s pieces as seen in “The Exhibits Triptych,” are much like colorfully embellished versions of Malevich’s “White on White.” Elements of Mondrian’s geometric abstract paintings can also be seen throughout Devlin’s work. Within these works, Brad Devlin achieves a bustling depiction of movement much like that of Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie.”
While viewing these compilations of assembled objects, the idea of placing found objects in a box brings Joseph Cornell to mind. Within the box, Cornell played with textures, forms, and various surfaces. Devlin also seems to be exploring these ideas, but manages to pack his objects into a surprisingly two-dimensional plane. These flattened assemblages reside in their own individual squares. Most are fairly bold and vibrant, but a few pieces stand out in that they are calm in comparison. For example, “Shakespeare in the Park,” is monochrome in that every object included is unpainted wood. These entirely wooden pieces are reminiscent of the wall sculptures by Louise Nevelson. Just as in Nevelson’s work, Devlin includes a conglomeration of various objects used to make one harmonious composition.
Brad Devlin collects and transforms the discarded into two-dimensional boxes of aesthetically pleasing works. He allows us rethink any pre-conceived notions we may have had regarding the original purpose of a specific object. By transforming the cast aside objects of our everyday lives, Devlin allows us to see the potential beauty lying in the mundane.
Galerie Hertz 1253 S. Preston St.
Louisville, KY 502-581-8277