For his first solo exhibition at Gasser & Grunert, titled “Nudge, Nudge Me Do/////,” recent Columbia University MFA Grayson Cox explored the effects of aseptic, corporatized social spaces on individual experience. The show consisted of 16 works, largely sculptural objects that incorporate silkscreened images using bleach. Cox found all the images, which are empty of people, from searches on Google; many were renderings of interior spaces that do not exist.
In the front area of the gallery, one encountered Ergonomic Lectern (2009), an institutional gray lectern reminiscent of an old-style rocking horse (it actually rocks to and fro) equipped with a podium, a microphone, a speaker and canary yellow ergonomic padding that allows one to kneel comfortably in the hollow contraption. Though the lectern remains idle in the exhibition, a viewer can imagine the artist sitting in it, rocking, giving a demonstration or a lecture, or a performance of one. While the show title’s request to “nudge” the artist suggests a desire to get the lectern and lecturer in motion, both physically and intellectually, the Ergonomic Lectern is ultimately metaphorical. It serves as a symbol of possible action, as well as a stand-in for the artist, and tempts gallerygoers to break protocol and “nudge” or sit in the rocking-chair lectern themselves.
Works like Scoreboard (2011), a foursided wood construction attached to the ceiling, display images of corporate boardrooms and immaculate interiors that suggest obscene wealth, disproportionate privilege and deadening convenience. Point of Purchase (2011) is a gray wall unit presenting a silkscreened image of a massage chair with a built-in TV set. Below the image, a series of cubbies are outfitted with usable cell phone chargers. Cruise (2011) is a diptych made of bleach and acrylic on wall-mounted canvas-covered seat cushions. We see a ship’s lavish indoor swimming area printed on the left; the other cushion shows an empty observatory lounge. They are beautiful black-and-white photos of a luxury ocean liner’s interior architecture. In offering these signs of luxury and wealth for the viewer to question, Cox addresses a fertile problem; however, at the moment his work seems alert but neutral.
Perhaps the artist is aware of his own susceptibility to the narcotizing “comfort, cooperation and control” mantras (mentioned in the press material) of the corporate esthetic. In addition, con- temporary art is supported in large part by corporate funding and its affluent constituents. The artist may think that by bringing attention to the world of the executive, he is contributing to the discourse between art, money, and cor- porate power’s societal influence, but it isn’t quite enough.
Cox is most salient as a sculptor. The fast, colloquial and immediately familiar piece Chair (2010) does some performative heavy lifting. It looks like an Ikea project gone awry. The simple structure is painted in gray enamel. The back of the chair angles a few degrees off square, as if to nudge sitters off their posteriors, incite them to get up, and hopefully do something.
Photo: Grayson Cox: Cruise (Diptych), 2011, bleach on canvas, furniture foam, enamel and wood, 20 by 27 by 12 inches (left) and 17 by 22 by 11 inches (right); at Gasser & Grunert.