Liminal Nostalgia

Rita McBride’s new sculptures for her April exhibition at Alexander and Bonin are fabricated casts of a standard video game counsel found in arcades and rundown bars around the world. These life-scaled works are made of mass produced porcelain material that is used typically for industrial signage and subways. They are colored with the tone of technology, the kind you would find in the lobby of the IBM building, or the interior of a monorail car.

As autonomous objects these sculptural counsels create a psychological and physical tension by occupying a space liminal to the viewer’s typical relationship to a discreet object of social significance, such as video arcades. Think of common bus stop benches that one momentarily sits on, or a doorway which one passes through; the video counsels are liminal agents that take you the virtual space of video game bliss. As post minimal sculptures these counsels take you to the “good old days” of first generation minimalism, while simultaneously presenting a post minimal twist on present day politics of sculpture as social collective signifier that slides through social strata like shuffling a deck of cards within an apolitical trend. Their porcelain conversation of formalism versus a polemic of poetics contextualize the viewers relationship to sculpture through nostalgic desire; not unlike being part of a group adolescents hanging out at a video arcade demanding idealistic escape from their master planned suburban demographics. These sculptures deal with the unquestioned form of video game counsel, which is a standard strategy used in McBride’s work. She brings video counsels to the post minimal discourse as objects through which we vicariously escape social situations, because they are accepted norm of form.

This new show also includes sculptures whose form derives from architectural awnings. Again, they stealthily present the viewer with a liminal experience and in so doing, reveal McBride to be an artist whose post-minimal trajectory in sculpture is far from typical. The awnings are objects that cover you while traveling from one space to another. These minimal sculptures rift on society’s experience with architectural design and its standards, recalling some of the greats of minimalism.

As a pioneer in the post minimalism discussion, McBride takes a non ironic stance of not looking back in anger, but using minimalism as a grounds for artistic innovation and daily motivation. Here, minimalism is viewed in a historical context as a collective of artists whose work turned the tables on what art was – bringing together new beginnings and inspiration rather than the typical hindsight of pointing out the failure of minimalistic ideals or using overplayed irony to make bland sculpture successful. Think of bar talks and discussions, groups of aspiring artists believing in something – in turn this fuels a collective movement, in this case minimalism, and presently a possible demand for a new conglomerate of artists willing to take art back from its saturated position of individualistic entrepreneurship. McBride uses the common psychological grounds of relating to a visual repetition within a familiar form and makes a social context for the viewer experience. This is done through sculptural terms, i.e., scale, recognition, and physical displacement.

It’s like being in a new place that immediately feels familiar, an instant recognition of a distortion, the past rushing back to you with a new perspective. McBride’s group of counsels rift on minimalism’s past revolution by creating sculptures that occupy a space that represent ends as transitions, a liminal experience. Physically you can’t enter the object, unlike the bleachers or arenas of past McBride sculptures, but these counsels are the psychological and physical channels to the game experience for liminal understanding. McBride’s sculptures could be looked at as metaphoric time machines. They enable one to travel through the historical discourse of minimalism with melancholic optimism returning with a fresh understanding of one’s social relationship to objects.

Jay Batlle press release Rita McBride