The singular comforts of home—as well as the petty banalities of domestic routine—create the tension at the heart of “Home Again, Again,” a new group show at The Journal Gallery in Williamsburg. The final show before the gallery (and the fashion and art digest that shares its name) relocates to a new, spacious HQ just a few blocks away, “Home Again, Again” presents nine works by eight artists exploring the delights and discontents of the place we almost inevitably return to at day’s end, whether we want to or not.
Michael Nevin, who heads up both the publication and the gallery, has specialized in making the most of The Journal’s diminutive exhibition space, especially in terms of inventory. Particularly for group shows, Nevin has been known to cram the walls of the room (which is scarcely larger than some museums’ more-luxurious service elevators) salon-style, displaying dozens of canvases by a diverse roster of emerging artists, along with a few ceramic sculptures teetering unprotected atop pedestals in the middle of the room (the perceived danger of which can be a little dizzying, especially at The Journal’s always-packed and PBR-soaked openings).
Luckily, the works in “Home Again, Again” are given a little more room to breathe, and the curatorial approach is one of unusual restraint for this gallery. The overall mood evoked while standing in the space on a sunny summer afternoon is a contemplative one. The pieces on display are abstractions, mostly painted on canvas but also comprising a few interesting hybrid assemblages: Jeffrey Tranchell’s Oriental (2012) is constructed from pegboard (that tool-hanging stalwart that covers the walls of garages wherever organized dads are found), through which a multi-hued array of commercial paint samples can be seen. The surprisingly elegant effect recalls the diffuse, minimalist pointillism of Robert Irwin’s dot paintings of the mid-1960s. Davina Semo’s X Marks the Rot (2012), a neon cruciform sprayed on concrete, leans casually against the east wall, small in stature but endowed with outsized confidence by its imposing mass and density.
The best pieces here—Tranchell’s, plus a whorling, cloudy abstraction by Chris Martin crusted with a murky rainbow of glitter, and a tougher, textural piece by Sam Moyer that simultaneously evokes both deep space and the floor of a subway car—were created with the flotsam of our consumerist society, those often unseen or unappreciated building materials that prop up the myriad forgettable moments of our lives. The unifying quality of these pieces, a naked, flat blankness that hints at depth without ever really opening up, is chilling. There is also an unsettling dual aspect to many of these works: Moyer conjures the deepest mysteries of the universe by way of a tatty utility room, while Raphael Taylor employs a drop ceiling tile (cut on the bias) to create a pleasing composition that also calls to mind a lattice of planned, but undeveloped, suburban blocks: the perfect tabula rasa for domestic bliss (or at least distressed debt).
Intelligent works like these provide a critique of everyday life worthy of Lefebvre, or at least Donald Barthelme, who in the 1970s borrowed the title of the French sociologist’s book Critique de la vie quotidienne for a short story that wittily captures what is best and worst about life at home. Near the story’s conclusion, Barthelme’s exasperated and unnamed protagonist retreats to “what is called the ‘living’ room,” and asks, “is there to be no end to this family life?” For most of us, if we are lucky, there is not.
“Home Again, Again” runs through August 3 at The Journal Gallery, 168 North 1st Street, Brooklyn. Image courtesy of The Journal Gallery.