Mo.tor Cor.tex opened Thursday night at the Art Gallery at Florida Gulf Coast University. Curated by Anica Sturdivant and Steven Coe, this radical new exhibition provides a dialogue about human obsession with industry, manufacturing, machinery, the essence of nature and the nature of what it is to be human. The show features work by Taylor Pilote, Jayson Fittipaldi, Kathy Kissik, Nick Gentry and James Rosenquist.
Both Taylor Pilote and Jayson Fittipaldi were on hand for last Thursday night's Gallery Talk and reception. Both artists not only hold a lifelong fascination with industry, manufacturing and machinery, they come from automotive families. Fittipaldi grew up in a racing car culture, where the metallic clank of automotive tools and throaty roar of high performance engines supplanted the soothing sounds of baby rattles, mobiles and cat purrs. Pilote spent weekends with his dad in his auto and body shop and before pursuing higher education in Windsor, Ontario, on the other side of the tunnel from the automotive capital of the world, Detroit. This heavy metal influence permeates both artists' current body of work.
Mechanics find beauty not in a car's lines or ergonomics, but in the make, composition and arrangement of its engine parts. Fittipaldi applies this sensibility to guns, finding beauty not in the finished product or their fire power, but in a gun's component parts.
"When you break a gun apart, the shapes are individually beautiful," Fittipaldi told the Mo.tor Cor.tex crowd on Thursday night.
Although not a gun enthusiast himself, his superimposition of disassembled handguns over waves and surfing imagery is susceptible of varying interpretations. On one metaphorical level, the pieces invite viewers to contemplate the often destructive and sometimes violent ways in which technology can disrupt if not dominate the environment, ecology and the natural world. From a different perspective, spectators can consider the dichotomy between work and play - and the pervasive way our culture's need to constantly do, build and accomplish encroaches on leisure, play and relaxation. And on the simplest plane, viewers can choose to merely enjoy the juxtaposition of hard unchanging lines against the dynamically changing contours of ocean waves and cloud-clad skies.
"[Combining] surfing imagery with guns emanates from my frustration out of not being able to surf," Fittipaldi demurs. "Coming from Brazil and Puerto Rico, I enjoy surfing, but that's something you can't do too much in a place like Miami." Clearly, Fittipaldi leaves it to viewers and art journalists to come up with their own interpretations of his work.
Although there is clearly an autobiographical aspect to his work, Taylor Pilote is unabashedly cognizant of the metaphorical content of his work both during its design and execution. For example, the "melting oil barrels" in his irreverently titled Ass, Gas or Cash totem-style sculpture "flowed from the BP oil spill." The jerry can topper, tandem metal Yamaha 650 gas tanks and bands of tires are an indictment of the stress and strain placed on the environment by "over-the-top excessive hobbies."
While Pilote's sculptures reflect many of the issues of our day, his process reflects the lifestyle choices that are embraced by the vast majority of people living today in technologically-oriented, consumer-based culture. "Most of us buy what we can have and then use our time and elbow grease to make it better, to beautify it." In the automotive tradition, Taylor relies heavily on the use of Bondo auto filler and various automotive finishes, "spending hours and hours sanding and buffing" in order to achieve the aesthetic he is after.
Pilote acknowledges that many of his pieces are somewhat didactic. "But I am not trying to teach a lesson, but I do want to cause viewers to ask questions" of themselves and others.
All of the works selected by Steven Coe and Anica Sturdivant for Mo.tor Cor.tex share that sensibility. Which is precisely why viewing this exhibition warrants the investment of your time and energy. The show will remain on display through October 24 in the main gallery in the FGCU Arts Complex.