Joe Fyfe’s recent exhibition was almost baroque, verging on “everything,” as promised by its title, “make me one with everything,” the start of a Buddhist joke involving a hot dog. Rooted in the likes of Beuys, arte povera, Rauschenberg, and Richard Tuttle, these works, made from a rich and motley trove of materials—felt, cotton, flags, bricks, tires, a black car bumper, drums, a capsized umbrella, signs, and more, were set on the floor, hung on walls, and suspended from on high. They were the discards of daily life that Fyfe salvaged from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries where he likes to wander. His collages here were particularly gratifying, a lyrical balance of painting, bright graphics, photographs, and found items on canvas, cardboard, and paper.
Though seemingly effortless, based on serendipitous, sensitively inspired pairings, the works were held together by a formal intelligence that belied that nonchalance. His is a populist art for the cognoscenti, a wry transfiguration of the insistently commonplace, one that is not without political rumblings. Fyfe’s creations also take the temperature of the region’s transitions, its growing materialization and globalization, with a nod—the Union Jack that emblazons the surface of Bull (2014), say—toward its complicated past. The oddly appealing, cobbled-together Bench (2012–14) of uncertain durability is poignantly symbolic.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 83.