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Criss-cross at Pulse

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Chris Gilmore’s “Ford A” made of cardboard.

Not only are Western artists making Eastern-influenced art but everybody’s playing fruit basket upset with the materials. How about Chris Gilmore‘s “Ford A,” a luxury sports car made out of cardboard at Perugi’s booth at Pulse? A clear highlight at Pulse, it was one of several cardboard pieces we saw.

Crossing cultural and materials boundaries is not even a cool idea anymore. It’s a fait accompli. It’s just another tool. People are making what they want, no matter where on earth they are, and they’re using whatever materials please them. It’s a good thing.

Tom Burckhardt cardboard easel

Of course Frank Gehry was making cardboard furniture years ago. And lots of people paint on cardboard. But the cardboard constructed objects we saw, including an easel by Tom Burckhardt at Caren Golden Fine Art (who will be installing an entire artist’s studio made of cardboard at the Aldrich Museum at the end of the month, the gallerist told us) were all highly-crafted pieces made by choice in the disposable material.

Ronald Moran’s polyfill covered tank and ironing board

Other non-traditional materials mavens include Ronald Moran with his snowy sculptures at Mackey Gallery. The militarist- and mundane-object sculptures (toy tank, ironing board, work boots) are covered in what looked like that white poly-fill material you stuff pillows (or dolls) with. Like being in a blizzard, your eyes had a hard time seeing these dreamy soft-shell objects. And of course who’s ever thought of a tank or a pair of boots as baby soft?

Margarita Cabrera’s leather and hair Hummers at Walter Maciel Gallery

The best dreaming at Pulse was in work by Duke Riley at Magnum Projects. Riley, who owns a tattoo parlor, invented a complete faux history installation with artifacts, and a “documentary” video all based, in a Paul Bunyan-esque kind of way, on the residents of Ward Island.

Two of Riley’s mosaic pieces with faux scrimshaw ovals in the middle. He told us he made the faux scrimshaw from frosted plexiglas and the surrounding mosaic from cut up floor tiles.

The tight little booth felt like a history museum. All that was missing was the wall cards.

Everything made by Riley had a purpose and everything was made of faux materials and was about creating a parallel universe so complete that it could be real.

Riley’s installation included a flag, an antique military jacket, drawings, mosaics and a monitor with the documentary running.

In its attention to detail this work is like outsider art (although the artist went to art school). And in its need to eschew what’s real and create instead something rich, vibrant and false, the work is akin to many young contemporary artists who’d rather not be here in the real world so jump inside their heads and create new fictions that suit them better.

Duke Riley, talking about his project. He’s standing in front of a large antique-looking drawing of his in the mini-museum project.

We talked with the artist, a Cape Cod native who explained that he’d made some boats and journeyed up the East River to Ward Island and while meeting the folks who live there he found himself creating this alternative history of the island, its inhabitants, and the battles they’ve fought in. Riley’s an earnest guy and his work is outstanding. Both Libby and I thought encountering his rich world of work was the high point of the fair.

Maki Tamura’s “Stories” which blend mandala and Western decoration.

Maki Tamura
‘s “Stories” were among the last works we saw before leaving Pulse. The watercolor on paper and wood mandalas at Lucas Schoorman’s booth are a complete melding of East and West. Their circular, repetitive decorative motifs evoke Eastern meditative art works and yet the imagery is right out of antique Western decoration — motifs on dishes, in books and greeting cards of children skipping or walking down a country lane, all very prettified and banal.

I’d go back to Pulse next time. It was full of great stuff, some of it surprising and a lot of it worth remembering.

More pictures coming up. And you can see my Pulse set at flickr. And see Libby’s Pulse set too.