Contemporaneous Extension


Resurgence
February 9, 2011, 12:16 pm
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I wrote this in January about a really great artist I discovered by the name of Seth Clark, who constructs mixed media homes that are masked in decrepitude.

Seth Clark, 'Abandoned IV,'  collage, colored pencil, pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper. 30'' x 21''
Seth Clark, ‘Abandoned IV,’ collage, colored pencil, pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper. 30” x 21”
Seth Clark, 'Abandoned IV' (detail)
Seth Clark, ‘Abandoned IV’ (detail)
Seth Clark, 'Roof,' pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper. 26" x 40"
Seth Clark, ‘Roof,’ pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper. 26″ x 40″

Seth Clark, 'Roof' (detail)
Seth Clark, ‘Roof’ (detail)

Seth Clark invigorates the decrepitude of deserted homes, granulated factories owing to oversight and communities tarnished by natural disasters. Despite their sorry states, his structures cling to the energy of his mark. Graphite fuses with collage and pastels while colored pencils congeal with charcoal and oil paint, sometimes all on the same canvas. His images prance like runners-up in a beauty pageant, defeated but unquestionably beautiful. The houses are seductively placed upon pristine neutral backgrounds. Clark targets the details of decay with great specificity and flaunts a variety of textures. Dark lines transform into spliced wires and derailed balconies. Structures pause mid-crumble. The multitude of media allocates distinct characteristics of each home. A bold stroke of brick-red pastel contrasts slender, colored-pencil cross-hatching in ‘Abandoned IV,’ for example. The image is rich, honoring the home’s structural backbone while recognizing the chaos of decay’s thoughtlessness. As each layer of media is decoded, momentum builds and sustains a brisk pace of viewing that mimics the painfully slow degradation of these human incubators.

The entrancingly deep mark of Clark’s work spans from heavily opaque to delicately sinuous. His lines are animated, contained within the confines of the home, yet completely rampant within it. A minefield of tangible planks and tarnished slabs of roof descend with the majesty of an avalanche. Strokes of coral or cerulean-blue grace many of the dilapidated structures, contributing a softness to their reckless facades. Despite decomposition they resist disappearance with revived poise. Clark rouses a conversation regarding details and their importance as such. When elemental components like a toilet or staircase are eclipsed by evidence of residential life, a house has officially become a home. Fragrant kitchens, a wreath in the foyer, and an heirloom bedspread constitute a home; without, a house is nothing more than a skeleton. An inverse phenomenon occurs with Clark’s neglected frameworks. They occupy a position past the point of repair.  Depreciated structural elements dismiss the house, condemning it to abandonment.

Clark delves into the evanescence of the home by exploring function and evolution of the structure. His isolated, deserted homes expose the true pointlessness of forsaken architecture. ‘Roof,’ for example, depicts three disheveled alcoves upon the slope of a destroyed rooftop. The rotting roof is no longer functional but decorative . ’96 Houses’ expands upon the function of the home’s backbone in simplified terms. The hundred-page, hand-bound book contains a reduced drawing of a house on each page. The archetypal square with an equilateral triangle on top is the foundation of each image. Utilizing both interior and exterior elements, Clark plays with the functionality of the structure and the transformation of physical components. They range from aesthetic renderings to theoretical constructs. The symmetrical frame speaks to a number of scenarios including the guise of a jack-in-the-box, a snow-framed cave, a jail cell, a stuffed package secured with taut string, and a circus tent, among other things. Clark exhausts the associations one makes in the most basic rendering of ‘home.’ Some sketches are obscure and fantastical, inciting laughter and endowing the homes with a cartoonish invincibility. Black liquid drains through a small hole from a house filled up to the top like a glass of milk in one drawing; another depicts a house jumping off the page with the assistance of a trampoline. Although conceptions of home are grounded in physical presence, their true nature is as imaginary as it is concrete. Home is a foundational concept that facilitates learning and experience. Home morphs into a vessel capable of nourishing and preserving its residents, sculpting one’s outlook according to the framework.

A house, in Clark’s work, is a skeletal structure providing vague clues to the past without any hope of future revival. Bleak, darkened interiors with shrouded furniture and crunched boards are abrasive remnants of activity. Despite their desertion, the house’s potential whispers through the floorboards. ‘Abandoned XI’ reveals a freshly abdicated location with large peep-holes on the facade. The open wounds reveal the rampant plague of rejection. Clark’s images mourn the demise of these used and abused structures. His houses’ sluggish implosion pronounces their impermanence. The value of the structure dissipates with the memories in a dreadful crumble, reduced to the meaningless framework at the mercy of a new spectrum of elements.

Seth Clark, excerpt from '96 Houses,' hand-bound 100 page booklet. Edition of 96.
Seth Clark, excerpt from ’96 Houses,’ hand-bound 100 page booklet. Edition of 96.
Seth Clark, excerpt from '96 Houses,' 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from ’96 Houses,’ 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from '96 Houses,' 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from ’96 Houses,’ 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from '96 Houses,' 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from ’96 Houses,’ 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from '96 Houses,' 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, excerpt from ’96 Houses,’ 100 page hand-bound booklet. Edition of 96
Seth Clark, 'Abandoned XI,' found paper, pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper
Seth Clark, ‘Abandoned XI,’ found paper, pastel, charcoal, graphite on paper
Seth Clark, 'Abandoned XI' (detail)
Seth Clark, ‘Abandoned XI’ (detail)
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