Tar or chocolate? Jay Hardman’s alternate universe at Space 1026

The aroma of cake wafts through the gallery at Space 1026 this month. New member of Vox Populi, Jay Hardman, gets his first one man show, Unsustainable, showcasing his love affair with buildings and building materials, while attempting to comment on the relationship between the materials, textures, and the societal contexts implicit in their use.

hardman gallery
Gallery view at Space 1026

In this show, Hardman presents an array of smallish, singular structures, and also some other pieces that I would call construction-scapes. His single structures take the form of sharp, angular table-top pieces, which colorfully crown their simple white pedestals like magic crystals or other weird chunks of strata. These works, most often oddly angled and displaying a robust juxtaposition of disparate surface texture and color, have an excellent balance and tension, both creating long, foreboding shadows punctuated with broad areas of reflected light.

“Little Boat”

“Little Boat,” the strongest of these pieces, resembles a small, irregularly-shaped house – or should I say chunk of a house. Perhaps because there’s already cake in the room, (I’ll get to that in a minute), I felt like this sculpture represented a section of house served up like a piece of cake, like it had been cut down the sides to reveal the other textures under its facade. And the blue roof, which is probably some sort of spackle or sealant, reminded me of my blue Cookie Monster cake I had when I was in kindergarten. Still, the sculpture is chock full of texture and pattern modulations and has great weightiness and energy.


The sculpture, “Butterfly,” was another standout. Again using sharp, aggressive angles, Hardman creates an unexpected dialogue between some whimsical butterfly wallpaper and roofing tar. The shape is almost futuristic in its dynamics, the outer side plastered with the wall paper, while shadowy inner walls are slopped up with a thick impasto layer of shiny black tar. The sculpture conveys a sort of stark formal beauty, yet with an air of uneasiness – I felt a little like I was being purposely misdirected or lied to by a child.


Hardman’s miniaturized construction-scapes are also on display. “Michigan” is a large sheet-cake that seems to be undergoing some sort of excavation/construction project. Brick walls, wooden railings, and metal barricades populate the site. The chocolate cake (dirt), with its patches or white icing (snow) gives the scene a cold, desolate feel that indeed reminds one of Detroit and its barren, crumbling infrastructure. Apart from being a pretty good material for grading and carving up into a mini landscape, the use of cake seems to comment on the way we (Americans?) consume our resources without much serious thought, comparing our wanton use of land and raw materials to a sort of unplanned, benign activity such as eating cake.

“Loading Dock”

Another contruction-scape, “Loading Dock,” depicts a myriad of tiny handmade objects that would be piled up and stored at a construction site. Tediously crafted miniature trash bags, concrete barriers, steel girders, cinderblocks, and many other objects are tightly packed together and stacked up in this multicolored world. The piece at once celebrates these artifacts of human ingenuity, while also highlighting the wasteful practices of 20th century construction techniques.

“Justin Loves Fire Trucks”

Lastly, the most playful piece in the show is called “Justin Loves Fire Trucks.” A small cake sits under a glass lid. At the center of the cake is a birthday candle thatʼs been extinguished. Surrounding the candle are some tiny fire trucks that appear to have just put the candle out like it was a burning building. The little toys donʼt want Justin getting older because heʼll probably grow out of his love for fire trucks, so they just extinguish his birthday candle!

Hardman’s show runs until January 28.