NY ARTS Magazine April 2008
Don Porcella at Stefan Stux Gallery
by Michael DeNiro
Don Porcella’s exhibition "Are We There Yet?" was on view at Stefan Stux Gallery in Chelsea in February.
Don Porcella. Courtesy of Stux Gallery.
Apparently the turkey vulture has been seen in 48 of 50 states; this is what Don tells me. Right now it’s in a Chelsea gallery and clutching a decapitated head. The artist, who hails from California but now works in New York City, then points out the bird’s coloring and its relation to art. I lose him here (I thought turkey vultures were just black and red all over) but the rainbow of colors that compose this bird’s wings seem to authenticate whatever he’s saying. More importantly, they set the tone for the entire show, which continues into the next room. The over-saturated colors which imbue Porcella’s work with a notable vibrancy come in part from the unusual media he uses to create them: encaustic for paintings and pipe cleaners for sculptures. The resulting works are highly unusual—childish, yet encumbered with meaning—something like how MTV must have appeared in the 80s, when outer space was still culturally relevant (astronauts figure in several of Don’s paintings,) and the Planet of the Apes remake did not exist.
The centerpiece of the whole show is the Tabled Installation, featuring a headless figure in a t-shirt and jeans, seated before a television and surrounded by “corny puffs,” “ass power drink,” rats, cigarette butts, and a gun. His head is the one in the claws of the aforementioned vulture, and the whole thing has something to do with the circle of life. But my favorite severed appendage in the show is the pipe cleaner Air Jordan. The iconic shoe comes complete with the bleeding stump of some unfortunate basketball player’s leg. Here and in many of the show’s works, Porcella reminds the viewer how culture can sever an object from its original environs, amalgamating it voraciously. Even so, pop culture is not the artist’s only target. An assortment of plastic baggies tacked to one wall present the viewer with the ability to pick and choose from the neurotic fragments of some ready-made counter-culture, each one stuffed with a pipe-cleaner sculpture evoking an object for which it was titled—UFO, Weed, Bombs, and even Messiah. I forgot to ask Porcella where the show’s title came from, and it may refer to the artist’s eager desire for a post-consumer world; but for me, it favorably calls to mind the youthful irreverence from which these imaginative works spring.