Extension Gallery’s 2018 season is off to a haunting start
Extension Gallery has been quietly filling the gap in emerging art presentation in Allston that’s been left vacant more or less since Allston Skirt Gallery and Pan 9 went the way of all things (in these rapidly gentrifying lands).
Its programming this year so far has been solid. And thematically dogged. Young, Dumb and Broke (a la Khalid) was summed up perfectly in a pennant sewn by Andy Li that read “The reality is that if you are here and enjoying this I am at one of my two jobs,” and then underscored by Alex Weiss’s cartoon reading “I’ve lost my mind to the daily grind but at least my body’s free.”
The current show, Exotics Etcetera, picks up right where that one left off.
The three-room (and one hallway and stairwell) gallery above (and part of) Orchard Skateshop doesn’t ever let you forget the body. While you peruse imagery, you can hear bodies rolling around the store’s artful, nest-shaped, free-to-the-public skate ramp, and it enhances the viewing experience, weaving in and out of the more traditional soundtrack that fills the space through a speaker on the floor of the main room.
The gallery’s function in its first years was to showcase and support the creative talents of the skate community, whose energies explode well beyond the ramp into design, cartooning, painting, photography, etc. But since 2017, under the curatorial guidance of TJ Kelley III, who says he “basically grew up hanging out at Orchard,” Extension has been making an effort to widen its focus. And Kelley is happy see some recent evidence that his approach is working. “It was great! At the Exotics’ opening I saw so many people we’ve never seen before—people from completely different communities.”
At the beginning of 2018, Extension’s artists are struggling with one main question, which is basically “I know how to make art, now what?” Except it’s really more like “Holy shit, now what?! Making art is actually just extra work on top of other work. But I can’t stop doing it!! Why can’t I stop doing it?! AHHHH!!!!”
In Young, Dumb and Broke, the answer to the question was basically to use art as a tool to stay grounded and keep things in some kind of perspective.
In Exotics Etcetera, featuring works by Terrence Doyle, Brandon Kirk, Andy Li, and Buck Squibb, the same theme is explored harder and from a wider angle. Here the question isn’t just “how do we keep our faith in artmaking?” but “how to we band together to show why we need to?”
Exotics Etcetera finds and reinforces the evidence for the necessity of the excess labor involved in keeping committed to the cause of art. Despite its reported likeliness to prolong a state of brokeness much longer than other career paths (supposedly) do.
The artists featured here collaborate with one another regularly, and the conversation among them seems to be about what the world looks like in a way that alternates between an artistic lens and a slightly less filtered—perhaps bleaker—one.
The bounce back and forth between these two perspectives is most gentle in the room dedicated to Terrence Doyle’s work. One side of the room is lined with constructivist style abstracts in acrylic paint on boards. These are mirrored, on the opposite wall, by photos of roughly the same size, featuring slightly more organic abstract shapes poached from urban landscapes. The two walls—and the textures of the idealized versus the found environment—are moderated by an art object that borrows from both. Tape Monster (acrylic paint and tape on board) is built up and then torn down, acting as middle ground.
It’s a case for beauty as a form of psychic relief from decay. Or as Doyle’s artist statement puts it: “A foolish desire to control an uncontrollable world.”
The conversation gets more blunt in the main room of the gallery. Here, it’s part travelogue of parts not entirely appealing and part highlight reel/details of moments that maybe you might want to revisit if you could be completely sure the memory of them was not mostly nostalgic. Or not. Staying home might be an equally good option.
It’s unclear whether “exotics” is ironic and other-referential or unironic and self-referential, and it doesn’t matter. The ambiguity is pleasing.
The show’s content is a smorgasbord for sure, but it all ties together and makes a case for art’s ability to make even the mundane feel hauntingly important. As in Buck Squibb’s Car Search, with its sharp focus on a gorgeously lit, khaki-clad ass that doesn’t seem to know how vulnerable it is. It’s candid, but also objectified, in a strange, half-tender, half-horrified way. Kirk’s nearby piece, Better than the Worst, (2015, acrylic and ink on paper) could almost be this character’s motto—and in fact the not-as-cynical-as-it-sounds motto of most modern creatives.
As with the previous exhibition, Andy Li gets the final word here, with The Expectation (2018, fabric, grommets and stitching, 9” by 19”) a triangular pennant that informs us, a bit enigmatically, “The only difference between fantasy and reality is the expectations.”
EXTENSION GALLERY. 56 HARVARD AVE., ALLSTON. SUN-FRI NOON-7PM, SAT 11AM-7PM, AND BY APPOINTMENT. (617) 782-7777.