Thursday, November 8, 2007

Peter Dudek at Smack Mellon

By Lauren Rice

New Monuments to My Love Life

As a formal artist, I am constantly asking myself how to imbue my collage ideas with a clear content beyond my formal interests. It appears that Brooklyn artist Peter Dudek is concerned with the same question(s). His installation at Smack Mellon is a constantly changing conglomeration of corrugated cardboard, felt, wooden tables and plastic school chairs among other things. The colors and shapes are all carefully considered and organized accordingly, strangely reminiscent of retail stores, specifically West Elm, Ikea or other aesthetically pleasing yet affordable furniture retailers. Unlike, West Elm, however, I am not sure what to focus on in Dudek assemblages. In other words, as the viewer/consumer, I am not sure what to buy. Once I focus on a piece of the installation, I realize that it is merely a mass of felt, or a cardboard fixture (which I know from personal experience is not technically easy to make), or a found piece of wood, surely not commodities that I can take home and actually use. But he sure makes it all look so pretty!

I am presuming that this is part of Dudek’s point, despite his artist statement which primarily (ok only) focuses on the formal qualities and decisions in his work. Perhaps he really is only interested in the formal decisions that he makes, although I find this doubtful. And I understand his reluctance to dictate what his work is about; I do the same thing. But surely this is about more than “a rambling and discursive junction where Modern architecture, Design, and modes of presentation intermix”?

Another aspect of Dudek’s work that interests me is that he continues to rearrange the pieces of his installation throughout the span of the exhibition. Again, I can identify with this process. Collage allows me the freedom to rearrange without the mess of painting. However, this can also be a horrible dilemma. I never have to glue; I can rearrange forever! And what do I have? A lot of scrapes of paper. I like that Dudek has made constant rearranging part of his process, yet I wonder if he could benefit from using (metaphorical) glue. What would happen should he add a permanent object and have to respond to it by only adding additional elements? What would happen if he decided he did not like that permanent fixture and responded by destroying it?

Needless to say, I am intrigued by Dudek’s installation and am interested in seeing how his work will grow and change.

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