June 26 - September 18, 2021
From Lora Reynolds Gallery:
“Lora Reynolds is pleased to announce Hypocrisies, Accommodations, and Polite Twaddle., an exhibition by Colby Bird of work he will produce while in residence at the gallery this summer—the artist’s sixth solo project here.
Colby Bird has worked in multiple mediums over the past two decades—sculpture, photography, video, and most recently, watercolor (a medium the artist previously used only for private ruminations). For this exhibition, Bird himself (and his practice) will be on display, alongside the fruits of his labor.
When Bird moves into the gallery, he has requested several special things from his mother’s home to be waiting for him (Ms. Bird lives in Austin, in the house the artist grew up in): a wicker chair, a floral-print armchair, an antique coffee table, a large framed tapestry, a dozen books from the Bird family library, and a vintage stereo system. He will gather raw materials upon his arrival—lumber, driftwood, old chairs, fresh and artificial fruit, candles, flowers, light bulbs, bricks—and commence reconstituting them into sculptures. The gallery’s normal hours are from 11am to 6pm, but Bird prefers to begin working in the afternoon and continue into the evening.
Several small, recent sculptures will be on view from the beginning of the exhibition, as well as a suite of older photographs. As the show evolves, its focus will be on work the artist makes in Austin with materials he finds locally.
Bird intends to use this residency/exhibition to continue a body of work he has been developing for the last five years: kinetic sculptures not unlike elegant, vaguely anthropomorphic Rube Goldberg machines. Each piece is primarily made of wood and has a set of legs (two, three, four, or sometimes just one, usually stripped from vintage furniture) which, most of the time, supports a hollow chest of some sort. Peering inside, one might find a dense tangle of electrical wires and switches, newspaper clippings, shelves, a music box, blow drier, hand mixer, or some such surprise. The sculptures’ exteriors are adorned in an equally maximal fashion: with fruit, light bulbs, brass door knobs and knockers and chains, blocks of wood painted in primary colors, pieces of leather acting as straps or latches, sharpened pieces of metal lashed to scrappily whittled handles, fresh flowers in tiny vases made from emptied-out light bulbs. With a little prodding, the sculptures perform actions that range from playing a music box or local talk radio, ringing a bell, blowing out a candle, juicing a lemon, to dropping some (or all) of their components to the floor in an apparent display of self-destruction.
Over the years, Bird has devised various strategies to collapse the boundaries between the three phases in the life of an artwork—its production in the artist’s studio, its initial public display in a gallery, and the rest of its existence in a museum or collector’s home. His work often requires regular attention from gallery staff or its eventual owner: fruit decays and needs to be replaced, candles melt to a nub or extinguish prematurely, light bulbs burn out, flowers are thirsty and have short life spans, precariously stacked sculptures are designed to spontaneously collapse so they might be put back together. While these materials imply a kind of inevitability and helplessness, the kinetic sculptures are performative and entertaining—either way, much of Bird’s work engages the viewer in its ongoing self-actualization. It’s not something to just glance at and walk past; it needs to be cared for, attended to, loved—almost as if the work is perpetually still in the studio, in the artist’s hands. This exhibition removes any distinction between studio and gallery, production and display—in this case, they are the same.
Labor, too, has long been a central conceptual anchor for Bird. A primary reason he is drawn to wood is because it so beautifully carries evidence of how it has been worked. Cutting, sanding, staining, screwing, sharpening—it all takes time and sweat (and sometimes blood), and Bird’s sculptures carry the stories of their making all the more because they are so inexpertly handcrafted. Labor is valuable to Bird as evidence of a life well lived—outside the walls of a precise little comfort zone, taking risks, embracing insecurities, ending up in unexpected places. But until now, he has only offered indirect evidence of how much physical and emotional toil he puts into his practice. By inviting the public to watch him work, he is lifting a veil—for transparency, for vulnerability.
Bird moved upstate from New York City six years ago, in part to get away from the social pressures of the art world and focus on making work with fewer distractions. Social distancing this past year has amplified Bird’s isolation beyond what he once sought in the countryside, but he still dreads the idea of being watched at work. “More or less my worst nightmare,” he calls it. But after 15 long months of enduring an ever-growing list of unsettling unknowns, Colby Bird will be facing his fears and turning the tables, arriving in Austin for his newest exhibition with only a glimmer of an idea of what he will ultimately be showing. He aims to remind us how fruitful the unknown can really be.
Come. Watch. Visit. Bring your dogs—the artist wants to meet them.
Colby Bird, born in 1978 in Austin, lives and works in upstate New York. He has mounted solo exhibitions at Blackball Projects (New York), Okay Mountain (Austin), and University Galleries at Texas State University (San Marcos). He has participated in group shows at Arthouse at the Jones Center (Austin), Aspen Art Museum, Autocenter (Berlin), Drawing Center (New York), and Hagedorn Foundation Gallery (Atlanta). His work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York).”
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