“[Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe] did this long before Breaking Bad was popular,” a Marlborough staff told an eager gallery goer who was busy eating up Stray Light Grey, the duo’s installation. The piece transforms the gallery space into a completely unrecognizable series of dust-covered rooms, like a paean to underground culture. I’ve never heard “artists did it before a TV show” as a selling point, but sometimes we take what we can get in the cultural relevancy department.
At Marlborough, the artists, and a series of innumerable assistants, have inserted all sorts of period rooms ranging from a neglected trailer park bathroom, a deserted dentist’s office, and a decrepit art gallery office. They did something similar with Hello Meth Lab in the Sun (2008), a faux-meth lab amusement park of sorts, but never to such an all-encompassing degree. There’s upstairs and downstairs rooms cobbled together from well-crafted knick knacks like airbrushed cakes, Matisse-brand paint thinner, a crab claw sculpture, and heavy layers of dust and spray foam that give the rooms an unmistakably musty smell. Breathe deep, Stray Light Grey is a long way away from anything else on the block.
There’s no way not to get lost in the array of objects scattered throughout. I got nervous, thinking maybe if I knocked over a roll of toilet paper or put my thumb on some dust, that I’d be screwing up an artwork. It’s hard to tell what’s art or not in the installation, and that makes for a pretty enjoyable ride, even if you’re left empty at the end.
We don’t want to give you too many details about Stray Light Grey, but just so you know how gonzo this exhibition truly is, we’ve given you a slideshow with dozens of images. All photos courtesy of Anthony Espino.