Nathaniel Robinson: "The Sensible Range" at Devening Projects + Editions


Pigmented polyurethane resin
5″ x 10 1Ú2″ x 18 1Ú2″
Photo: Courtesy Devening Projects + Editions

Nathaniel Robinson’s sculptures in “The Sensible Range” are not what they seem to be. The cigarette butts piled on and tucked into the cracks of the floor were never smoked. Clinical-looking blue drapes cannot be drawn. A single, holey, flattened sock was never worn, the jumble of twigs never grew on a tree, and the white, shrink-wrapped cases of beverage cans will never be opened. The New York-based, School of the Art Institute of Chicago grad is known for creating facsimiles of commonplace objects in materials unconventional for the subjects. Here, those butts and twigs, the sock and the “shrink-wrapped” cans are actually replicas in pigmented polyurethane resin, while a stained, “plastic” trashcan is revealed to be impeccably painted wood. Stripped of their functions, Robinson’s sculptures prompt viewers to more closely consider the forms and aesthetics of such unremarkable, vernacular things.

However, “The Sensible Range” is not simply about the objects and the cleverness of their production. The space itself plays a significant role, through the deliberate way in which Robinson has installed his pieces in the room, dictated primarily by symmetry. Range, a large blue, hand-dyed curtain on the back wall, anchors the room, flanked by four others arranged two by two across from one another. Bulk, the pair of “shrink-wrapped” beverage cases, lies in the exact middle of the room, with the “plastic” trashcan also centered nearby. This compositional harmony is broken only minimally by the artfully strewn resin butts and sticks. Unlike similar work done by other artists–for example, Roxy Paine and his recent dioramas–Robinson’s stark, rigid installation resembles no recognizable place. It’s neither clearly indoors or outdoors, domestic or public. It bears no true comforts or function, as even the curtains aren’t actually covering anything in this white, windowless room. “The Sensible Range” might almost seem like an entirely fabricated and theoretical place, were it not for the inclusion of two small, found elements: plastic bottle caps. These bottle caps are simultaneously unique (they are the only found, non-handcrafted pieces in the exhibition) and un-special (they’re also readymade, mass-produced objects), prompting a continual question: which is the symbol, the found object or the fabricated one?