The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
July at Grizzly Grizzly offers a tight, if efficient, use of the small gallery’s space and explorations that are far more mental than aesthetic. The show by artist Jeff Williams is entitled "There is Not Anything That Returns to Nothing," and the creations within it confront our notions of materials, fabrication and the powerful — if unseen — forces at work in the world around us.
Immediately apparent is the roughly six-foot-long concrete beam, which divides the show at the building’s support column. There is hardly enough room to squeeze past to the rest of the show, and the viewer is made directly aware of their surroundings. Beneath the concrete sits a pneumatic jack, which bends the form upward ever so slightly. The silent force with which this occurs is emphasized by hairline cracks on the top surface of the beam, which Williams traces with thin red lines. The structure of the building and invisible hand of physics come to the forefront of the mind. Will the concrete crack any more? Is the floor stable enough to support the pressure?
Less obvious sometimes are the materials Williams utilizes. In line with the name of his show, many of his materials are recycled in some way. In one piece, a Greenstar building block made from repurposed cellulose sits under a slow, steady drip of water. Water erosion here reminds us of the march of time, of decay and our own biology (due to the block’s plant-based origins). The concrete beam is also made partly from recycled glass beads, and it’s fitted with rebar steel so it won’t actually break in half.
Rebar makes another appearance in the show as part of a small battery-looking contraption. Four pieces of steel, each in their own chamber, sit submerged in different liquids: tap water, saline, vinegar and lemon juice. They are all corroded at different rates and demonstrate the inherent weaknesses of the very same material that bestowed the concrete with its strength. Nothing is perfect, Williams seems to assert — not concrete, not steel and certainly not you nor I — and in time everything will transform.
While the grays of synthetic stone and the browns of rust may not appear as brilliant as the bright pastels of a painter’s palette, Williams feels inclined to introduce us to some forms of beauty we often overlook. Whether in the precise and inescapable forces of physics or the cyclical nature of life, death and inevitable change, a certain type of poetry can be found in some of the least likely places.
Grizzly Grizzly is located at 319 N. 11th St. on the second floor (room 2D). Hours are Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m.; firstname.lastname@example.org.