John Beech—Stark Gallery • New York

John Beech’s show in Stark Gallery contains all the necessary ingredients needed to create fine contemporary art. It is sophisticated, subtle and well versed in the “-ism” that it ironically and half-heartedly critiques as well as utilizes. The reductive approach to materials has the touch of an expert, and the understated humor which breezes through the pieces wraps them in an elusive yet familiar atmosphere. Another elegant body of work by a well educated artist who has done his home work only too well? While in most cases this scenario results in an articulate but vacuous show, upon closer inspection Beech seems to be interested in something else altogether. This allows for a fascinating double discourse to occur, one which is channeled through the objects in a very low-key but fluent frequency.
Most of the sculptures in this show are hybrids of banal, almost invisible objects of vague urban origin such as bumpers, dumpsites and inconsequential industrial debris. These formally inarticulate and simple elements are recreated as an abstract and reductive sculpture, only this time it is a highly refined and precise object. The sculptures are made from industrial materials, which differ from the original ones of metal and concrete and are mostly plywood, Plexiglas and industrial paint . These low-tech materials do not possess the heroic durability and monumental character usually attributed to concrete and metal as icons of industrialism. They are weak, malleable, and cheap. They are used for anything that is considered dispensable, unimportant and temporary, ranging from shipping crates to mass produced house decor.
The sculptures have a refined and elegant look, evoking the values and claims of a universal language of abstraction. This, together with a savvy use of materials accentuates an esthetic of material integrity and continues to play with ideas and notions about truth, beauty and modernity. This highly articulate rhetoric teams up unexpectedly with another universal language of a considerably less “noble” origin. The lineage of very marginal objects which can be found in practically any random city in any random country in the world and are molded for practical usage with no esthetic considerations what so ever. They are made for the sole purpose of designating spaces such as parking spaces and space that is to be filled to the rim with garbage and junk and stuff. These are objects that are meant to be bypassed visibly (definitely esthetically) and by their physical presence only define some kind of orderly space. The attention that Beech lavishes upon these objects, expressed in the precise and sound choices that he makes as a sculptor, transforms them into a thing that is art and brings forward a fascinating object that hardly has a face but whose status and presence are undeniable.
All of the objects in the show get a one color treatment that is Fairly raw and minimal. the inside of a dumpsite, washed with a flat industrial red, or a Plexiglas slab mounted on the wall dunked in yellow announces itself as a ‘Projecting Painting’. Since the work seems to be so immersed in a sculptural jargon drawn from Minimalism and Post Minimalism, it is surprising to see that there really is painting going on in these objects, and it is good painting. Something about the very few maneuvers that Beech makes with paint constitutes a painterly murmur that cannot be ignored. It turns out to be a lucid and solid form of speech. Very low key, but very confident and engaging.

Sari Carrel
New York, New York
2001