‘Tape & Float: Kurt Mueller and Rebecca Ward’

With its second exhibit, The Donkey Show moves away from the spectacular toward something a little closer to home, or at least to Home Depot: Rebecca Ward works with masking tape, and Kurt Mueller's supplies are straight from the paint aisles

"Tape & Float: Kurt Mueller and Rebecca Ward"

The Donkey Show, through July 30

The Donkey Show's second act moves away from the spectacular toward something a little closer to home, or at least closer to Home Depot. As Ward works with masking tape, Mueller's supplies are straight from the paint aisles and include cans of wall texture, various colors of spray paint, and even a group of home-fragrance sprays attached to separate soccer balls, which are rolled around to create a theoretically enterable 3-D landscape. The scale of this artificial landscape (and the rhetoric surrounding its description) flexes between human and imaginatively atomic. Somewhere in the midst of all the taping and floating, however, Ward and Mueller have entered a space whose walls and foundations seem as if they will never set or harden. In all the best ways, they are part of the Bob Vila/HGTV phenomenon, i.e., a group of do-it-yourself creators, even if they aren't fully comfortable with that stance.

And who can really blame them? Following on the tails (tales) of a modern art and architecture that believed it could rebuild and repaint the world into a utopia for all, the post-war 1960s and Seventies saw the demolition of those hopes in the logic of science. Naturally, humanity began questioning its own capabilities, motives, and "creative" potential back when Hitler, Hiroshima, and Vietnam danced across the headlines. As we began to wonder what logic, rationality, and all of the Cartesian constructs we'd come to value were really leading toward, even the simple acts of building homes and painting canvas seemed somehow complicit. So what next? Deconstruction replaced construction and post-structuralism came in to sweep away structuralist ideals, and we were left with an artistic, architectural, and intellectual vacuum that made production of any kind out to be a sort of coalescence. Until, like every good homemaker does after a storm, we decided to forget the violence and begin picking up the pieces and rebuilding on our own. If we couldn't trust the government, if we couldn't trust corporations, well then, we'd just have to trust ourselves, and thank heavens for Home Depot and three-step home renovation books. As popular lingo shifted its focus from the inherently suspect ideas of "outcome" to the safe, retractable, and experimental jargon of "process," everything from home repair to child psychology fell under its guise. While financial markets moved in to make the whole "process" easier, with a good self-help book in hand – say, Process for Dummies – now everyone can help their child through those nasty teenage years, everyone can tile a bathroom and, by God, everyone can tape and float.

So in terms of the Donkey Show, does this mean that Ward and Mueller are boons of the HGTV market? Hardly. Ward's tape creations are patient, formal works of beauty that use texture, light, and contour to rethink architectural space. Mueller is playing with harder hitters and greater responsibility as he thinks through what landscape means, is, and does in that all-American-boy way, with soccer balls and spatial geometries in tow. The point is simply that taping and floating never happen in a void: There is a lot of space out there to consider when thinking about building of any kind.

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