Don Porcella: Everything Must Go
June 3 - July 1, 2017
Noysky Projects, Los Angeles
by LAWRENCE GIPE, JUN. 2017
Back in 1961-62, Pop artist Claes Oldenburg took over the Green Gallery in New York, transforming it into “The Store”. Although “The Store” contained a few pieces that would later be regarded as signature works (like an 8-foot ice cream cone in stuffed, painted canvas), viewers were mainly served up vitrines and shelves of normally scaled consumer goods like cigarettes and hamburgers, all sculpted in enamel-on-plaster. Oldenburg’s cheeky notion of flattening the hierarchical pretensions of high art with the low culture of Main Street merchandising had never been so completely conceptualized before. The original iteration of the show even had a sign out on the street that announced: “Everything Must Go”.
Meanwhile, in 1962, California-born artist Don Porcella (b. 1963) was just a twinkle in his Daddy’s eye (more about him later). 55 years on, in “Everything Must Go” at Noysky Projects, Porcella tips his hat to Oldenburg’s enterprise with a faux-souvenir shop, rebooting the gallery-as-store concept with fresh resonance and relevance. Its locale doesn’t hurt the cause: Porcella’s shop would probably work anywhere, but Noysky Projects is located just off a particularly touristic stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, and the gallery functions as the perfect site-specific home for “Everything Must Go”.
Along with a few small paintings, Porcella uses his recent medium of choice – the humble pipe cleaner –to compile a staggering array of simulacra. In “Everything Must Go”, he seems to take on most “everything”, from pop references that run purposefully shallow to autobiographical riffs that cut deeper. As most of our childhoods are boulevards of broken dreams, Porcella chooses Hollywood to “commercialize” the indignities of his own youth. The most poignant of these works is Wishful Thinking, an earlier encaustic on wood piece from 2008 symbolizing the artist’s early aspirations to be a major league baseball player. A promising athlete, Porcella enjoyed a “sports star” status growing up – and in the Porcella home, where sports ruled, the patriarch looked down warmly on his gifted prodigy. As it happens, an injury permanently benched his ambitions, and works like MVP and The Natural (a life-size sculpture of a baseball bat inscribed “WONDERBOY”) ironically memorialize the artist’s “halcyon days” as a favored son.
Although “Everything Must Go” is strongest when it illustrates how memories can be packaged and resold, Porcella tosses some satisfying salvos at the art world itself like his t-shirt/sculpture Diversity Sells (2017). And, while we’re at it, it doesn’t look like anyone’s making a big deal about the 100th anniversary of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), so it’s gratifying to see Porcella’s “R.Mutt” replica in pipe cleaners, reminding us where the whole modernist saga began. WM
Lawrence Gipe is an artist, writer, professor and curator based in LA and Tucson. His work is represented by George Billis Gallery (New York) and Lora Schlesinger Gallery (Los Angeles). Gipe's writings have appeared most recently in SquareCylinder.com as well as Flash Art, L.A. Weekly and Artillery Magazine. Recent curatorial projects include "Everyone is Hypnotized: Artists Dérive the Bay Area" at ProArts Gallery, Oakland (May 2017) and "The Known Universe" at Root Division, San Francisco (March 2016). View all of Gipe's projects at www.lawrencegipe.com.
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