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Under Construction–Chris Lawrence at Extra Extra


Chris Lawrence’s installation Ultracoital Oasis at Extra Extra [September 10-28, 2010] is the work of one depraved do-it-yourselfer. The artist very effectively assembles materials of the type you find at Home Depot—but not at all according to the DIY guidebook.

Chris Lawrence, Incubator, installed at Extra Extra

At the center is Incubator, a kind of sinister sawhorse. Partly embedded in the wall, the piece aims a splintered board directly at your skull. A knot of electrical wires droops from its pointy head and a pair of cement blocks weigh its flanks like saddle bags. In a note repeated throughout the show, Lawrence embedded lights in the blocks—shooting an eerie fluorescent glow through the piece.

Chris Lawrence, Torches

Spreading that glow over the floor is Torches, a set of candle-topped flashlights connected again by a tangle of wires. The inexplicable redundancy of candle-over-battery-over-electric cord evinces a primitive misunderstanding of technology, like lighting a campfire inside an airplane to take care of a chill. More than preparing for blackout, these lights seem to forget how things worked in the first place.

Chris Lawrence, Moth Flame

Look up and you see the star of the show, Moth/Flame—a buzzing fan dangling by an electrical cord. Like Hop-Frog in the Poe story, this impish dwarf swings balefully over jittery guests, powered by its own momentum and the vicissitudes of the room’s air currents. Moth/Flame also carries a fluorescent bulb, its light darting to and fro as the piece careens through the air.

Chris Lawrence, Moth Flame

The collective backlight of each peace adds up to a half-light in the room, leaving a dark void between the works. Viewers inhabit this persistently unlit and unfinished place, a state made more vexing by the handyman’s willful incompetence. Boards are splintered, electrical cables lead nowhere, and hazards dangle above our heads. Ultracoital Oasis is really futzing-around hell, an urban pioneer’s nightmare of incompletion.