Matt Kenyon, Doug Easterly
End of Oil, Exit Art, a project of SEA (Social-Environmental Aesthetics), New York City, NY.
Materialisms, Allegheny College, PA.
Fire Sale, MIC Toi Rerehiko Gallery, Auckland New Zealand
Approached in the gallery, Puddle appears to be little more than a slick of black oil. Spilled across a concrete floor, the pool’s wet figure is dark and alluring. Its presentation is informal, its shape indistinct. In an environment so heavily controlled, one might consider whether the unceremonious mess is simply someone’s mistake.
At a closer glance, the black puddle is observed to be slowly transforming. The oil appears agitated and gradually begins to separate; an orange ring seers around the edges as selective parts of the liquid raises. Eventually, letters emerge to the surface. As the letters become embossed and form words atop the puddle, the oil reveals the names of large Sport Utility Vehicles commonly referred to as gas guzzlers.
Appearing and then disappearing back into the black mass, the names present themselves as references to a frontier mentality: “Discovery”, “Avalanche” and “Expedition.” Perhaps none is more apt to its actual situation than the “Suburban.” In identifying these names, the artist highlights the inherent contradictions present in vehicle branding, as the very automobiles that celebrate rugged individualism also shackle a nation, and its attendant foreign policy, to a cycle of resource dependency. These luxury vehicles rarely see the environs they portend to represent. Instead, they pose one of the greatest threats to environmental well-being. These vehicle’s homage—seemingly sincere—are caricatures in themselves. With a deft hand, the artist recognizes that to point to this hypocrisy, it is simply necessary to spell it out.