Chris Thorson: “Tabula Rasa” at Quint Gallery

San Diego

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"Tabula Rasa (Do Not Bite!)," 2016, Chris Thorson
“Tabula Rasa (Do Not Bite!),” 2016, Chris Thorson
Acrylic and glitter on cast urethane, plastic binding coil, 20″ x 11-1/2″ x 1″
Photo: courtesy Quint Gallery

Currently on view at Quint’s new industrial space, San Francisco Bay Area-artist Chris Thorson’s “Tabula Rasa” waxes nostalgic on 1980s Pop culture while critiquing its effect on adolescent identity. Like Fischli & Weiss, Thorson elevates the subject of banal everyday objects. At first glance, “Tabula Rasa” appears as an installation of readymade found objects – from pink flowered socks and a faded Bart Simpson t-shirt to a collection of sticker books. After examination, it’s understood these objects are cast urethane—each carefully painted by Thorson. The artist’s hand and labor gives the objects new meaning, playing with notions of “reality verses fabrication,” and “mass-culture verses art.”

In the vein of 1960s Pop artists, Thorson takes aim at Pop culture while celebrating it—highlighting the repetition derived from a bank of circulated images. “Tabula Rasa” conjures notions of a blank pre-teenage girl crafting her identity by pasting mass-produced images into a series of sticker books, presented in a succession of eponymous works. Tabula Rasa (Kiss) features a wide-eyed Raggedy Ann doll next to a macho gun-wielding masked Zorro; Tabula Rasa (Do Not Bite!) (both 2016), captures a passive state of day-dreaming brought on by images of Hello Kitty, Care Bears, glittered flowers, butterflies, lipstick-covered lips, rainbows, and the word “baby,” linking these seemingly trivial images to perpetuated fixed ideas of gender. Installed in the corner of the gallery, a teenage girl’s white-wrought iron bed is strewn with a painted Hydrocal TV remote control and assorted cast urethane items: painted keys attached to a pink heart key-ring, an open sticker book with individually painted stickers, and a handheld mirror resting on the floor tapping into the self-gaze. Together these objects provide a narrative from a time prior to the Internet, cell-phones, and social media when hours could be squandered pouring over sticker books. An oblique reference to a new generation of adolescents, who may be savvy when it comes to the subversive power of Pop-culture images, yet through social media seem ever more eager to brand themselves.