Trevor Reese’s two new installations “And yet.* / the squid and the whale” come together in the tight space of Day & Night Projects to form an exhibition full of contradictions. Assembled on site, Reese’s room-filling installations — two trees and two life-size sheds — create an absurd, immersive space in a room smaller than most college dorms. The installation raises questions about how viewers engage with conventional structures, and what happens when those conventions are removed.
The two sheds are inverses of each other — one is the “exterior” of the shed, and the second, more unusual structure is the “interior.” The exterior is the shed itself — blue, wooden, sturdy, unremarkable. It’s locked, so it’s impossible to see inside, but there’s no need. The inside is right beside it. Exactly the same size, the second shed is literally the innards of the first. Reese filled the shed with bright orange spray foam that resembles the guts of couch cushions, or more grotesquely, animal intestines. He then removed the exterior structure to reveal the interior cast. Various common shed items, which had been stored on or against the walls of the shed before the casting, are partially visible: a hand-saw, a green garden hose, electrical cords, a gardening glove, and even a folding chair.
The absurdity of the two sheds is echoed by the two upside-down trees, which greet the viewer at the gallery entrance. Devoid of branches or leaves, the midsized trees’ roots are trimmed down and could easily pass for branches, which contributes to Reese’s mission of upending perception. The trees add to the overall effect of the installation by mildly enhancing the fish-out-of-water feeling of the space (trees inside, sheds inside!), and they fit in nicely to the meta-themes of the exhibition, but other than that, their purpose is questionable. They aren’t particularly interesting, especially alongside the sheds, which are clearly the stars of the show.
Reese’s artist statement complements with the two separate but connected shows. First of all, it’s huge — printed and mounted on two boards that lean against the wall and dwarf the nearby gallery door — the two-page statement is filled with perplexing ramblings. According to the artist, the left board is meant to loosely convey ideas relating to “and yet.*” and the right side relates to the sheds—though this isn’t clear from the presentation of the boards. In fact, it’s difficult to focus on one board at a time. There are music lyrics from the Talking Heads and WU LYF, and quotes from James Elkins’s The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. Overall, the pages comprise a collection of music lyrics, quotes from books and articles, and poetry. It’s part mood-board, part word-collage. It’s disjointed and jumbled, and incredibly difficult to follow as the paragraphs and sentences jump and mesh together.
One instinct is to try and tie it all together, to read the whole thing start to finish, and come away with insight into the artist’s mind and intentions. This instinct is futile. Any effort to understand the artist statement behind “And yet.* / the squid and the whale” fall flat, which may be exactly the point. Reese plays off our desire to comprehend, and then continually thwarts that desire. The installation pieces heighten the sense of confusion by challenging our very notions of space, nature, and what is natural. Leave your assumptions at home. They have no place here.
Trevor Reese’s “And yet.* / the squid and the whale,” is on view at Day & Night Projects through February 17.