Brooklyn artist Chambliss Giobbi explores “Arcadia” through a series of hanging sculptures and small mixed-media works in the recent eponymous solo exhibition at 101/ Exhibit. The term itself instantly conjures notions of a pristine, untouched wilderness, both free from human touch and simultaneously tamed, as if waiting, ever patiently, to be inhabited. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a large hanging sculpture in the shape of an eternity symbol over nine-feet wide, also titled Arcadia (2015-16). A natural tableau depicting a thriving ecosystem wrapped around a looping figure eight, this ideal world is both thriving and frozen in time: the budding trees will never bloom nor will the bloom of the flowers ever fade, the river’s waters will never flood nor recede. A dichotomy of the infinite and ephemeral, the diorama presents a moment frozen in time.
The New York artist was a composer before turning his attention to the visual arts, where time continues to be a subtext in his work. Earlier series, consisting of fractured collage portraits put him in a dialogue with the legacies of Picasso and the disturbing Dada photomontage techniques of Raoul Haussmann. More recently, he constructed sculptures built from a seemingly endless string of Matchbox cars—akin to a typical afternoon drive on the notorious 405 freeway. In the current series, the artist’s technique is increasingly meticulous, if not downright obsessive, and demands careful viewing. The trees, grasses and various flora of these pastoral scenes are not of the pre-fabricated, craft-store variety, but each is made, painstakingly by hand before taking root in the artist’s various ecosystems. There are three additional hanging sculptures on view: Small Arcadian, about one-half scale of the larger work; Arcadian Ocean, an infinite loop comprised of churning waters and cresting whitecaps; Arcadian Snow (all 2016) a frozen biosphere populated by trees, frost and snow. Hanging on the gallery walls, wrapping around the hanging eco-spheres, Giobbi creates smaller episodes on a series of 7-by-5-inch panels. Yet, there is something missing, there are no humans, birds, beasts, nor insects for that matter to inhabit these microcosms. The dangers and decay of the natural world, those on which it depends, have been removed. However, though Giobbi’s pretense of a sublime-free romantic landscape might be false, it is quite a beautiful fiction.