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John Souza
Spanish Box, Santa Barbara, CA

Michael Coughlan

John Souza, Installation View

Using an array of nuts, bolts, screws, mending plates, perforated steel bars and light fixtures, John Souza's most recent work is a hardware fetishist's dream. Buffed and shiny, the coldness of these six sculptures is betrayed only by their obvious hand-made construction. In contrast to the series of formal digressions and gratuitous accumulations of parts one might normally expect from such an aesthetic, Souza's work is sparse and direct. The work of an apparent do-it-yourselfer gone mad professor, these pieces play with the relationship of sculptural, architectural, and vehicular forms to enigmatic effect.

While most artists pay only lip service to ambiguity and indeterminacy, Souza comes straight to the point. Pulling out all the stops, road practically disintegrates in front of our eyes. Looking like the front half of a stripped down Delorean, lit from beneath for sci-fi effect, road is indicative of an in-between state of matter. Through its beautifully understated form this sculpture gives us just enough information to accept the apparent car form it mimics, while just too little to stop it from returning to the constituent pieces of galvanized steel and bent conduit from which it is constructed.

Similarly fugue on twilight, reminiscent of some twisted doctor's examination table or robotic apparatus, is an object simultaneously at odds with itself, yet comfortable in its entirety. Ultimately dysfunctional, fugue on twilight comes on as an object suggesting numerous possible uses, but undermines itself with obvious immobility and a purposeless agglomeration of parts. It is these parts which make initial reading of utility plausible through their seemingly meant-for-one-another formal cohesion. Like road, fugue on twilight appears to be in an in-between state of construction or dismantlement, and to be a part broken off from a larger whole. In their fragmented and mutated states these works point to a dimension of becoming and possibility beyond themselves.

Of Souza's six sculptures, trail (self serve/convenience) is perhaps the most austere. A framework of perforated steel L-bars bolted together with overhanging roof and fluorescent light fixture, this sculpture reminds one (if the title didn't) of a convenience store facade without the brightly colored sheet metal skins. Through the metonymic device of the doorway, Souza allows the viewer to fill in what is absent from this picture, bringing to mind the aforementioned metal skins, shelving and products; only to undermine them through the sculpture's barren materiality. Indulging in a counterpoint between delightfully airy sculptural form and a monument to the banality of everyday life, trail acknowledges the precariousness of its own underpinnings and becomes the gateway to something more experiential than symbolic.

Conjuring images of science fiction films, convenience store facades, customized vehicles and illustrations from Heavy Metal magazine, this work also possesses the means to unload what may otherwise burden it with clichéd meaning. Souza's sculptures act as prisms channeling the white noise of an overcodified sculptural and pictorial space into distinct and multiplicitous interpretational hues. What evolves are Maximalist readings through minimal means. The pleasure of which lies in the constant loss and renewal of perceived reality and the truth behind it.

Michael Coughlan

Los Angeles, California

1997

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