For a time, though impossible, there seemed to be two Gary-Ross Pastranas who had been moving about the pre-pandemic art world.
There’s the artist, curator, and mentor Gary-Ross Pastrana who, after receiving the Thirteen Artists Award in 2006, made stupendous mileage with his object/concept-driven works in biennales and triennials left and right, exhibiting locally and abroad for more than a decade. This is the tireless Gary-Ross Pastrana a Google search would have you most familiar with: the one who, in the late aughts, had an oft-quoted, head-scratching work involving two rings that momentarily bled his arm as a sword.
Then there’s the more private Gary-Ross Pastrana who came out of the summer of 1999. He had a day job. Or jobs. Many of which likely took longer than a day. And it may have been because he wasn’t a painter that he had to take a variety of them to support his then-burgeoning art practice. As he explained in his Utopia Hasn’t Failed Me Yet catalogue (2018), the design work he had to do to keep his art practice afloat had him revisit collage-making to develop his compositional faculties, use of color, and arrangement of forms. It was a practice that saw him do it daily, indeed, was designed to be done daily, “all in effort to be better equipped at performing in [his] so-called ‘day job.’”
Over time, the project had evolved and took on the strappings of a lifelong endeavor, which is to say, to no foreseeable end. The 10x8-inch analog works, all a nod to the Today series by Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara, came across as incidental puzzles Pastrana needed to solve, as if tracing an imbedded logic that would reveal itself with each magazine cutout, aerosol spray of paint, and application of glue. It’s less about how the works are abstract, and more about how the materials themselves, by the slightest altercations, become abstracted.
By 2017, the series found a home in the Instagram account, @collage_a_day_everyday, and was exhibited shortly afterward in Utopia Hasn’t Failed Me Yet (2018). Two years and a virus later, a lockdown set was presented for the group show, Anticipating the Day (2020). And until 10 October, this Saturday, at the Silverlens Gallery Front Room, is a select twenty of these collages on view for some recent (& disrupted) projects. Displayed, if we understand Pastrana correctly, for the last time.
Comprising disparate works the artist had on hand, the show is a send-off, the title, a literal reference to the shows postponed or canceled in light of the pandemic. As Pastrana explains, “I hesitate to label this presentation as a proper exhibition, as it is more accurately a gathering of fragments… excerpts from disrupted projects, vestiges of floating narratives and precarious ideas of a practice currently in limbo.” Apart from the collages, set center on an MDF plinth is the carved wooden figure inspired by the Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, “(Eidolon III) Lot- 01 Provisional Objects Series,” which was showcased for Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms earlier this year.
As the writeup implies, the works don’t aspire for a larger coherence. It might not be a reach, though, to think that these chance-driven pieces equally elicit a chance, spontaneous reaction on our part. Even in the Front Room’s quaint, small enclosure, the pandemic feels like a necessary ‘thing’ to cite still, if at least as a time of visual glut. When events seem to either address or pivot away from this crisis, present anxieties make one wonder what (or who) could survive this abiding trend of usefulness.
In that way, the sight of these kaleidoscopic, stationary objects, allegedly in limbo, is a restful one. There’s something about that information—that these collages are ‘made’ things, each made in a day—that has racing thoughts brought warmly to a heel. What took up my appointed hour to view the show was a developing sense of temperament, or Pastrana’s, and the near-forgotten joy that comes with the labor (or loyalty) of standing there, looking.
Time flies, doesn’t it? Gary-Ross Pastrana’s some recent (& disrupted) projects are on its last two days (ends October 10), along with Collectors Plus. Give the artworks a fitting physical send-off and book your viewing with Silverlens here.
Their three next shows, slated for October 17, are Norberto Roldan’s Ziggurat, Pacita Abad’s Mask and Spirits, Yvonne Quisumbing’s Apothecary: Prelude. Stay tuned.