What was the last thing you made out of papier-mâché? A model of the solar system? A pinata? An embarrassing halloween costume? Brooklynite Lauren Clay is using the humble medium to create raucous hallucinatory art that pokes fun at the history of modernism.
Beginning with a simple wood frame, Clay meticulously crafts her pieces out of wire, paint, and papier-mâché. After many rounds of painting, sanding, and re-sanding, the objects evolve into sculptures whose provenance is, well, unclear. Both Sides in Equal Parts (2010) looks like an alien cornucopia, dripping globs of teal paint; Granny Takes a Trip (2011) explodes with clusters of geodes and unidentifiable fruit. The pieces jump off the gallery wall, inviting viewers to cross that ever-present line between art and audience.
Clay sees her work as a way of critiquing modern art using humor. Using the basic language of modernism (the grid, the plinth, the monochromatic plane) in repetition, she creates lushly detailed pieces that seem wildly unlike anything that came out of the heavily masculine modernist canon. The pieces draw on ’60s psychedelia, Taoist philosophy, and traditional decorative arts, remixing historical eras and symbols with ease.
“I think it’s impossible to ignore the awkward, fumbling feeling that comes along with any philosophical pursuit,” she told Nastia Voynovskoya last fall. “I think it’s healthy to admit how silly and awkward it feels to address the infinite or our own history.”