Peat Duggins: Black Room
This museum room of a future race is an interior space addressing the outside world
Reviewed by Rachel Koper, Fri., Nov. 7, 2008
'Peat Duggins: Black Room'
Through Nov. 15
Peat Duggins has evolved. In his current exhibition, "Black Room," eight tapestries hang in a circular-walled black room. It is very plastic and orderly. In a talk about the show, Duggins mentioned the museum of a future race, one that displays narrative tapestries as historical relics of past civilizations on walls with imitation Victorian wainscoting and imitation bas-relief wood-carving. The tapestries tell of various cycles, specifically day to night, the four seasons, the four directions, and order and culture shifting into entropy and nature. Duggins used earlier drawings as the basis for this odd fabric-and-plastic installation. The show comes with a hand-drawn chart for a gallery guide, but the plastic panels and trim were manufactured, as were the tapestries. Duggins moves between media deftly and considers every method of production equal. He seems most interested in his planned atmosphere; in setting a stage, he's very goal-oriented.
Duggins is very intentional and thorough in depicting a personal mythology. This series contains a proletariat worker character which is visually distilled into a red ball with two hands. These little builders join hands, constructing domes and forming patterns across an interconnected web. I just watched an episode of Nova on fractal geometry, so I immediately enjoyed this use of trifurcation and soothing repetition. The seasons and time of day shift through these tableaux, which feature enjoyably complex trees and buildings, some encircled by spiraling flocks of birds, some visited by wild deer. So while Duggins has created a formal interior space, he's addressing the outside world. His imagery is imbued with an odd environmentalism – hopefulness, respect, powerlessness, and nostalgia all seem to be in play.
This is an interesting show. It also contains several sculptures, each made of Duggins' studio detritus; he's turned recycled and reformed paper pulp, electrical wire, and aluminum cans into a deer, a bird's nest with eggs, and a tree. In the future museum, these remnants have gained relic status. I have to say that the walls would have looked better to me if they had been real wood. (If there is still paper in the future Black Room, couldn't there still be real wainscoting?) The plastic panels have a ton of seams and screws that I found distracting. Their bumpy texture left me wishing for the same idea but executed in real wood and with real paintings done by Duggins. I like the look of natural materials; that's the short of it. For plastics to look good to me, they need to be überslick and shiny – hypermanufactured almost. If the room has been contrived to resemble a museum display, it should look more seamlessly expensive.
That said, I completely recommend "Black Room"; I've been charting Peat Duggins' fearless evolution as an artist since 2000. His work is thoughtful and thought-provoking. His art process is deeply sensitized, and you really get a sense of the hard work and time he puts into these creative visions of civilization.