Condensation Point by Calvin Hafermann
In her text, The Thing, writer and critic Elizabeth Grosz states that “Things are our way of dealing with a world in which we are enmeshed rather than over which we have dominion.” To Grosz, whose text has served as something of a guide in my process of research and writing for this show, objects encompass both provocation and promise for those who encounter or work around them. A material or formal encounter provokes questions, however simple. An action is carried out, a thing is made, modified, or disposed of, and the result carries a promise for the future; of sustenance, things remembered, things made better, or things changed on some sort of gamble.
Waiting Room is an art gallery situated in a century old basement awash in mineral efflorescence. The word “efflorescence” holds a dual meaning, first referring to the migration of mineral salts to the surface of a porous substance like concrete or brick, resulting in a whitish powdery deposit. Beyond its chemical definition, efflorescence also encompasses the broader concept of something coming into existence.
Having been immersed in the space and activities of Waiting Room for the past year and a half, I have come to perceive efflorescence as a tangible metaphor representing Grosz’s understanding of things. The artworks presented by Andy Delany, Sam Dirck, Michael Hansen, Kevan McClaflin, and myself in the exhibition efflorescence serve as a testament to the convergence of gesture, intuition, and materiality within the limitations of our respective artistic practices.
Michael Hansen’s most renowned bodies of work are built on layers of composited moving images which depict a wide range of symbols and borrowed forms, reflecting a deep entrenchment to specific visual, musical, and emotional cultures and their modes of dissemination. Transforming composited video collages into static images, the three paintings on display in efflorescence are a newly concentrated representation of his evolving artistic style. For Hansen the transposition to a historically traditional art material introduces a newfound sense of trust in his artistic practice. Instead of relying on the linear progression of an animation, these works strive to simply and faithfully capture the emotional resonance that Michael, himself, experiences. Embedded within these paintings are open-ended questions for the viewer, who may find themselves entangled in Hansen’s semiotic realm. A connection may unfold gradually, with a hope that a viewer willingly engages with their own inner narrative to exercise discernment.
The idea of embracing one’s entanglement necessitates an initial step of self-honesty coupled with a clear understanding of one’s position in relation to the subject at hand. During a visit to Sam Dirck’s in-home studio, I was struck by the central role that painterly marks play in his new work. While an emotional impact remains consistent in his paintings, it is a stark contrast to his previous bodies of work, which are heavily masked and taped. “What I’m really interested in right now is mark and gesture,” Dirck shared with me. Immediate brushwork takes precedence, replacing his reliance on tape, masking, and layered application that many have come to associate with his artistry. The paintings demonstrate an acceptance of the challenges inherent to being a painter, as they are purely composed using paint and brush on canvas, abandoning his past ideologies. His refinement of the artistic tools at hand extend beyond technicality alone. For instance, Untitled (2023), a seemingly black painting, exhibits a similar approach to economy in optical terms, maintaining the hard-edged masking characteristic of his earlier work while subtle shifts in material texture define the underlying form. Comparable to Hansen’s work mentioned above, there is a deliberate pacing to the content. In Dirck’s case his work is further influenced by an acquired sense of design and his profound understanding of the materiality inherent in painting.
While inside Andy Delany’s studio, I first took note of the materials. Structural aluminum extrusion and tubing casually lean against the walls while nearby larger sections of glass are vertically stored. Delany’s multifaceted sculptures are assembled using drilled holes, taps, and mechanical fasteners, such as bolts. His process opposes engagement in the extensive and technically demanding procedures of welding aluminum. During installation of his artwork, Delany informed me that a crucial component of ground stretch (2023) is a cantilevered, load-bearing structure. Interestingly, this component is an offcut or leftover piece that happened to fit perfectly within the artwork. This choice not only demonstrates a practical approach but also suggests a calculated level of informality that is then integrated into his decision-making process, thus affecting the time spent with the object. Delany encompasses a willingness to embrace the unexpected elements of his practice, saying “yes” to whatever serendipitously emerges, thereby feeding into a production of artwork as a means to the solution of material entanglement. An example of this sensibility is cultivated in the video component of under uncertainty (2023). In this piece, imagery is suspended within a field of deliberate glare, back-lighting, and the peripheral elements of the gallery that are visible through a glass screen. On the opposite side of the room, ground stretch (2023) hangs as a static network of connected objects, echoing a virtuosic sensibility to the environment. Rather than coining the work as “site specific,” this work strikes me as “site reflexive” in its intuitive openness to its circumstances of display and conception, reinforcing the adaptive sentiments found within his studio practice.
Similar to Delany’s notion of site reflexivity are the objects comprising Kevan McClaflin’s piece PAX - [Iteration 2] (2023). A single artwork divided into three parts, PAX - [Iteration 2] (2023), exudes a calming and peaceful demeanor. This composition not only reflects a contemplative relationship with time but also incorporates the delicate interplay of spatial subtleties. A linear arrangement of semi-translucent handmade papers hang on the wall, each sheet created with white rabbit fur and fibers from a shirt once belonging to McClaflin’s late great-uncle. Across from the wall of papers and on the windowsill sit a collection of sugar cubes with the ampersand symbol molded onto their front-facing surfaces. Below, deposits of evaporated salt solution tracing former architectures of the floor. Utilizing a disguise within minimalist compositions in his practice, McClaflin positions himself as a witness to the passage of time through laborious operations. He directly immerses himself in the chemical reactions, allowing them to unfold with little to no manipulation. A relationship forms for McClaflin through his unrequited attentiveness, demonstrating the will to engage with and implicate oneself in the natural processes and time scales outside of one’s own subjectivity. Personally, I find his work to be a beacon of promise. As someone who occasionally experiences a melodramatic loss of faith in art, even in my most melodramatic moments, I cannot envision a better or simpler path forward than the willingness to just be present at one point along a material continuum.
Regarding my own work included in efflorescence, my interest lies in the alchemy of attitudes, materials, and the entanglement of affective formal decisions within process-based actualities. Untitled (2023) began when I found a discarded baby carrier next to the dumpster behind my apartment. Implying a prosthetic care and distant convenience through the hands free carrying of one’s child, its state of disuse prompted reflection on the abrupt shifts in emotional and physical proximity to parental figures. Visualizing these processes and changes imposed on the object, I immersed the carrier in a reactive chemical solution that degraded the aluminum and partially transmuted it to metallic copper. Echoing the biological changes implied by the objects relation to growth and childhood, the anthropocentric narrative shifts into one deliberately entangled with objects as decisive agents of change, both reflective of and party to one’s own choices. One could accuse me of taking interest in the things between people rather than in people themselves, and I’d disagree only semantically; it’s just that I find myself hard pressed to disentangle myself from my material circumstances.
So in the end, what of a condensation point? To me, the work of these artists feels alive because of their willingness to engage with direct manipulation of material and process, make something of it, trip over that thing, and fold back into its initial point of contact. There’s a pragmatism to this sort of entanglement, an intuitive commitment to one’s actions relative to one’s material reality. Just as groundwater and minerals collect and effloresce on the surface of bricks only to be dusted off again or evaporated into ambient moisture, these words and works represent one point of contact with whoever is reading and viewing them. The promises given are now an open provocation for you.