Sondheim Finalists 2015: Jim Leach constructs spaces and monuments out of found and everyday objects, disrupting our natural sense of logic

Standing in the center of the gallery, surrounded by Jim Leach’s sculptural miscellany, you may be struck by an incongruity characterizing the space. Two sculpted foam horse heads, a radiator, a tall architectural structure, a large black panel, a violin, and some white platforms are jumbled together, as if they either have sprouted up out of nowhere from the ground or are old, broken remnants of something more whole. Leach uses a variety of materials—nylon paint, resin, steel, fiberboard, wood from a coffin maker’s shop, another artist’s work—and, by emphasizing the materials’ incongruity, weaves them into spatial collages.

In ‘Acciaccatura,’ a glossy black panel hangs on one wall, and a few feet in front of it stands a rusty, stained radiator, on top of which sits a violin veiled under white stiff fabric. This piece’s title, a musical term that describes an intruding note in a musical composition, points to the dissonance of material and space which run throughout Leach’s other pieces.

In ‘The Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable,’ a plaster-cast sack (which may be the material puzzlingly referred to in the wall text as a “sack full of cats”) drapes over a steel bar between two black-painted rectangular columns. Clipped to the side of the structure on another metal pole is a painting by a local artist, Sean Sweeney, making the piece feel like a monumental, art-centric hodgepodge. 

Dispersed across the floor, ‘Summer Vacation’ is less of a monument and more of a constructed landscape. Two large horse-head sculptures are located on either side of this space, so that as you walk around you’re also “interrupting” the work, becoming part of it yourself. Next to the horse head that sits on a wooden board, there is a small statuette of Diogenes of Sinope, a Greek philosopher with, perhaps, the most chill point of view: He found pleasure in the simple things. So you’ve got this tiny philosopher shouldering a gray banana peel that drags down all the way to his feet, trudging along on this board.  It trivializes esteemed institutions (philosophy, classical art) and shifts the attention to the quotidian (banana peel, horse head).

Leach extracts conventional objects from their ordinary usage and by defamiliarizing these objects, he disrupts our natural train of thought or sense of logic. As we attempt to solve the puzzles, full of intentionally twisted, obfuscated, or missing clues, he leaves the blankness as it is, letting us devise our own stories.

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