Technically speaking, Dead Zone (at Nudashank through March 17) is a group show curated by Philly-based artist Alex Da Corte. But this description isn’t really accurate. Rather than playing the role of curator, Da Corte is bringing in works by other artists and using them as additional materials in his sculptural assemblages. Along with the dollar store objects that Da Corte normally uses to build his works, like fringe or leggings, the list of materials for the pieces in Dead Zone also include Andrew Gbur’s “Untitled” or Sean Fitzgerald’s “16 Colors (as in the image below). Issues of authorship, appropriation, and attribution come to the fore, as does a sense that we might be flipping through Tumblr.
The name of the show, Dead Zone, is derived from the Stephen King novel and movie (starring Christopher Walken) of the same name. In the movie, the main character develops psychic powers that allow him to see the ultimate fate of anyone he touches. This raises an interesting issue for him: does he keep on living, moving forward, if he knows the outcome of it all? With the advent of our click-to-share Tumblrverse, the studio artist faces a similar dilemma of sorts. As Da Corte explained to me over email: “That kind of telepathic touching/sharing and riffing of language is how many know each others work through blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram posts.” An artist may never need to leave his studio to find his cohorts or to define the context for his work, because his artwork is already out there, riffing and touching digitally. Dead Zone is the playful manifestation of this fifth digital dimension, where Da Corte’s work riffs and touches the works of Sean Fitzgerald, Jamie Felton, Andrew Gbur, Alex Perweiler, John Roebas, Borna Sammak, and Kyle Thurman.
Da Corte, who recently had his first solo show with Joe Sheftel Gallery in New York City, is known for his poetic treatment of corner-store objects in sculptural works that seem to grapple with our disposable consumer culture. But there are no politics in his work — the cultural implications simply emerge from Da Corte’s materials, which he sources from stripmall dollar stores and suburban Walmarts. In a recent interview with The Fader Da Corte explains his relationship with the accessible, ubiquitous objects he finds in the sprawl of the suburbs: “I do feel like my work is anthropological, but I’m not so removed from it… I still live in the suburbs… I go and buy bulk toilet paper… What’s the point of saying I’m not going to buy an XXL coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, because everyone else is. It would seem elitist to remove my art from that equation.”
Presumably this is why Tumblr provides the conceptual backdrop for Dead Zone — it’s as ubiquitous, accessible, and democratic as the dollar store objects Da Corte uses for his sculptures. And for the recent Yale MFA graduate and rising art star, the contemporary art world may be as accessible to him as the Walmart bulk purchases and XXL coffee servings he mentions above. So his choice of materials in Dead Zone seems to reflect the artist’s own balance, between the everyday grime of the suburbs and the sanctimonious objects he encounters and produces for the art world.