These days are crammed with pathological tension.
Exhausted men and women wearily share revealing tales of near all-nighters, dedicated to Sisyphean work tasks or simply lost to reflux, nerves and unrelenting panicked stress. The new normal is hyper-competitive, over-scheduled ten-year-olds with nervously trembling hands, anxiety-induced backaches or spastic colons.
And, in the visual arts – self-destructively workaholic perfectionism fueled by bottomless ambition and an over-the-top fear of failure often reaps the highest rewards. Count the man-hours that go into physically constructing most gallery shows. List the art historical, philosophical and pop-cultural references demonstrating the level of strategic planning, research and thought that went into each brush stroke, miter cut and pyrotechnical gesture.
New York artist and rising art-star Sarah Braman’s exhibition at International Art Objects (previously, China Art Objects) in Culver City, entitled These Days, has absolutely nothing to do with this. It might even be a type of remedy.
Sure, Braman’s paintings and sculptures are art of substance. They even refer to some work done in the past, like Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard constructions and bed painting, Larry Bell’s tinted glass cubes and a little dash of minimalism thrown in for good measure. But, the work’s not too hard, the craftsmanship is not too fussy and the materials are not precious at all. Sarah Braman is more about the breezy joy of looking and creating, painting and piecing things together with whatever happens to be around or stuff that isn’t too hard to find.
Maybe she’ll build a box out of different richly colored pieces of Plexiglass, with overlapping color effects that pleasantly shift and overlap from different vantage points and punningly name it after a yoga pose.
Maybe another similar piece will explore the contrast between the seductive translucency of colored Plexi and the saturated solidity of painted plywood.
Yet another will supply its own music, not by means of a carefully engineered audio system invisibly hidden within the bowels of the piece that plays music composed by Animal Collective, specifically composed for the Los Angeles incarnation of the piece, but instead via the simple, lo-tech gesture of attaching a battery-powered boom box radio.
She paints a flattened cardboard television box, she paints a pair of doors, she paints some plywood a little bit and hangs it on the wall. The colors are pretty. The vibe is friendly, fluid and easy-going. Everything feels sincere (but not naïve) and fun. We’re safe, for the moment, from irony and coy, supercilious allusion. We don’t have to work so hard.
We can breathe easy.