Monday, August 9, 2010

Brian Neal Sensabaugh at G Gallery

Robert Boyd

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Feet First, mixed media, 2010

Brian Neal Sensabaugh uses a variety of found material in his pieces in this show at G Gallery. Crutches, tables, doilies, pantyhose, a carboy, wooden chairs, veterinary equipment, etc. He is a clear descendant of Edward Kienholz. He favors two materials over all others--shoes and dolls.

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Bless My Sole, mixed media, 2010

He uses different kids of shoes in these pieces. The shoes arranged in a cross in this piece are "pink jelly shoes." I'm a pretty conservative guy, foot fashion-wise. My shoes are topsiders, dress shoes, leather boots and walking shoes. I had never even heard of "jelly shoes," which apparently are really cheap PVC shoes that were have had several moments of fashionability from the 80s til now. Because they are translucent, they look somewhat spooky when light shines through them.

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Sole Sisters, mixed media, 2010

This one also features  jelly shoes, along with "worn women's shoes." But what jumps out at a viewer are the two dolls in a carboy. (The dolls are resting in the women's shoes.) My first thought was the same as anyone who has seen a ship in a bottle--how did he get those dolls and shoes into this bottle with its narrow neck?

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Sole Sisters detail, mixed media, 2010

One also notices what an imperfect medium for light the bottle is. It is impossible to see the dolls and shoes within without seeing them distorted as in a funhouse mirror.

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Down in My Sole, mixed media, 2010

This one has a bluesy title that turns out to be quite literal. The pink table has a circular hole cut in it. The lamp shines through the hole. Below the hole is a semitransparent cone of sheer nylon hose material (which reminds me a bit of Ernesto Neto). Within this cone are a pile of baby shoes. This piece is, for me, the strongest in the show. You can only see the pile of shoes clearly by bending over the table and looking down the hole. And when I looked down that hole and saw piles of shoes, I was reminded of the unforgettable images of piles of shoes taken from Jews at Nazi death camps. But, at the same time, I saw this stretched out hidden structure--the nylon cone--containing baby stuff, and leading to a narrow pink hole: the obvious conclusion is a visual metaphor for pregnancy. So the piece simultaneously makes me think of death and birth.

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Heel, Toe, mixed media, 2010

The object on the floor here is an antique child's prosthetic leg. It seems like a companion to Feet First--the long spiraling leg features in both. 

Brian Neal Sensabaugh, Sooth My Sole, mixed media, 2010

The title notwithstanding, this collection of veterinary medical instruments and a baby doll  is sinister. The pink wall ironically accentuates the sinister quality--black would have been too obvious. Pink seems to be telling you that everything's OK, while the gigantic gun-like syringes say the exact opposite. It reminds me of a specific Keinholz piece, Illegal Operation.

This is a show full of intriguing objects and startling juxtapositions. Sensabaugh's punning titles should be dispensed with, though. The work should speak for itself.

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