Have you ever seen that show on Netflix, The Toys That Made Us? It is what I thought of when I saw Really, Apparently at Front/Space. The series goes through some of the most collectible of toys and trends throughout the decades. The objects are collectibles while also being documents of play. People hold onto these objects like precious memories. In Bobby Haulotte and Kylie McConnell’s exhibition at Front/Space, they reveal an overwhelming and amusing display, that speaks to the need to hold onto that playful spirit.
The return to childhood through vibrant colors, diverse textures and busy patterns scattered around the room at Front/Space create an atmosphere thick with nostalgic energy and 90’s vibes. From the moire patterned windows, dayglow paintings, neon paper fences, and a kind of playpen still life in the corner of the gallery, the color of the objects resemble the earliest Nickelodeon game shows. Parts of pLAnT pArTY, IMG_0714.jpg, and the Fluctuating Still Life, are made up of seemingly random clutter, including toys, plants, and construction material. This exhibition is optimistic in its brightness and exuberance, but questions what it means to mine the materials of playrooms and construction sites and put them in one place. By aligning objects, there is emphasis on escaping into imagination. I half expected to get slimed at some point.
An interactive still life planted in the corner of the gallery allows others to hang onto this nostalgia while asking for participation. The still life holds materials commonly found as parts of buildings, pink styrofoam, concrete, wood, and carpet pads. It is understandable that these objects act as materials to build the still life and perhaps stand in as toys. There is something much more magical and playful as the carpet pieces lay on the floor around; these act as parts of play mats and kindergarten rugs. There were moments that the rugs were lost in the chaos of the still life as it was rearranged by young and old, but the effect of the parts of the exhibition blending into itself left me realizing how easily we tune in and out of our surroundings.
The collaboration is site for an imaginative curation from the viewer. The artists have gathered up their individual objects of inspiration for this resourceful still life that emphasize the preciousness of these discarded scraps. This jubilantly exaggerated exhibition left room for imagination. What is shared is a message that speaks about the desire to hold onto these scraps of those before us, and maybe it is our duty to make something new. There is a practical purpose in the way others are encouraged to play, and there is a kind of construction happening too.
Thinking about an essay written by Sherry Turkle, “What Makes An Evocative Object?” Turkle examines Bricolage, a style of working in which one manipulates a closed set of materials to develop new thoughts, and how this aids in giving objects their ability to connect with affective potential. Art does this, but toys do too. Through manipulating time, as if by role playing a moment disjointed from our own world, we can still find connections that explain the desire to reinvent. Our understanding of this desire is systematized by the surrounding societal norms, and thus, by making and by playing, the deeper questions are mined to expand it.
The desire to be in control can be born out of feeling stuck or perhaps wedged between the trauma of the past and the changes that come with the future. But the coming future, which seems to capitalize on shock, is crafted by the instances where escaping became conviction. Coming back to the exhibition, and seeing the interaction of children with the work and the sweet curiosity and enamor with construction, I believe there is something optimistic about the past and the context millennials are organizing, that artists are mining, to foster a brighter future.
Photo of Select/Delete/Repeat and Fences by Kylie McConnell, and Window Pair by Bobby Haulotte. Courtesy of Zane Smith.
Really, Apparently is on view at Front/Space through Friday June 29th 2018 by appointment. To see the exhibition, email firstname.lastname@example.org