Set My Chickens Free! or, the meaning within the banal of Gordon Froud
'Lost and Found', Gordon Froud's exhibition at the art.b, features an installation of a large number of small-scale sculptures made from found objects (mostly cheap plastic or wooden toys) that have been conjoined, or cast in bronze or aluminium. This exhibition is the first to be organised by the newly appointed curator of the gallery, Guy Willoughby. In addition, the exhibition presents photographs and paintings by his collaborator Carla Crafford. Apart from the sculptures, an edition of three catalogues (or rather artist's books), containing a sculpture and a large series of photographs of Froud's works by Crafford, is also available. This catalogue shows an impressive body of work by an artist that has been prolific for some time.
Froud's sculptures are part of an ongoing series that has been in progress for the past three and a half years. In this time, Froud has been staying in London and has travelled a great deal around the world, including taking up a three months residency with the Ampersand foundation in New York.
The nomadic nature of Froud's existence has had a profound effect on his artworks. As he states in the CD-Rom catalogue, he chooses objects of small size because they are relatively easy to transport. Consequently, these objects testify to the fact that they have followed various routes to become artworks. Sometimes collected from friends, but more often picked up on the street(s), the objects communicate a sense of both particularity (hailing from specific contexts, and having unique associations) while, through consistent use of McDonalds toys for instance, also reminding us of the "sameness" globalism brings in its wake.
Froud alters and interprets the found objects in a formal sense: working with their colours, shapes and materials; but the most interesting aspect of his intervention takes place conceptually, as he brings out the underlying sense of eroticism, violence and the sometimes downright stupidity inherent in the objects we produce and consume. Also, his specific manner of using found objects encourages us to reconsider our unconscious engagement with the objects that populate our lives. His reworking of found objects requires an avid imagination, a comprehensible passion for collection and of course, an eye for picking just the right thing at the right time. In this way, 'Lost and Found' presents its own peculiarly "Froudian" lexicon of art.
The process whereby Froud takes possession of the found objects can be seen in recurring references embedded in the works. For instance, Froud's fascination with Alice in Wonderland frequently surfaces. The influence of a text wherein the loopholes of logic, and the subversive nature of childlike associations between unrelated things are pre-eminent is clear in the humorous and irreverent tone of pieces such as his A woman in two minds, and Pig man and The Great Masturbator.
Much of the humour is communicated through quite literally representing puns through the found objects, and then calling the object after the pun. A Brush with Violence I and II are great examples of this dynamic. Of course, the irreverence is palpable from the use of cheap, mass-produced toys that either have the audacity to remain just that, or worse, become embodied in that haloed fine art sculpture medium bronze, as in Bronze Toiletwoman.
But it is not all about being funny, though funny goes a long way. The humour is complemented by references to the strange conjunction of the banal and meaningful, the exploitative and the innocent, the tragic and the jubilant, and so on, within our lives. Importantly, the joining of objects in Froud's work in a sense relates to the fact that we live in a semantically dirty world. Meaning, love, truth - these are all things that are not available as such in the world, but need to be "found", gained within, and because of, the physical world - and not in a separate sterilised art gallery. The objects are, as the world is, open-ended and awaiting our engagement.
It is in this last sense, to my mind, that 'Lost and Found' speaks most clearly. That is, the exhibition invokes the outside world, our ceaseless and often banal meanderings, meetings and meanings. In an understated way, the technical mastery and fine finish of the works belie the complexity of their conception and significance. Still, it is this irony of form and content that produces a microcosm of the consumerism-infused culture and raises questions regarding the role of individuated agency therein.
August 13 - September 6
Art.b., Library Centre, Carel van Aswegen Street, Bellville
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