Scaredy Cat City
March 20 - April 19, 2014
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 20, 6-8pm
P·P·O·W is pleased to present Ben Gocker’s second solo exhibition of assemblages and works on paper at the gallery entitled, Scaredy Cat City. Working with deaccessioned maps and books -- taken from dumpsters at the public library where he works -- as well as scrap wood, foil, beer cans, and the remnants of old clothes, Gocker has created 10 black and 3 white panel assemblages along with 24 pencil drawings made on the end pages of discarded books. When read together, the works constitute a new approach to narrative and poetic space, establishing a kind of shades-down dream cartography of wherever or whatever Scaredy Cat City is.
Gocker’s palette is dark -- blacks abound, smudged fat pencil lines conquer and wander, glue is left to collect dirt and dust -- and yet everything about it that could be read as nostalgic or melancholic is undercut by a warm thoughtfulness, the careful deployment and arrangement of pattern, of color, of glassy chocolate wrappers -- the build-up of a playful, poetic vocabulary of form and material. The work in Scaredy Cat City is largely affective, evoking deep emotions: feelings felt, lost, forgotten, put-off, recalled. Things here, on the brink of the never been, are returned to us in color and repetition -- a kind of insistence on vibrancy and memory.
Upon entering the gallery, 10 black panels all shaped like rudimentary houses warily balanced on inadequate stilts surround the perimeter of the room. In each, laid atop the wrinkled, folded ground of painted over and obfuscated maps, are views of parti-colored scaffolds, skeletal derricks, and the lotus like ziggurats of some imagined world inhabited by, and composed of: blue peanuts, carpet remnants, chipped crayons, and scrap wood cannibalized from past installations and sculptures or scavenged from the street. Gocker begins each piece by nailing a fragment of gold foil -- a kind of centering, and planetary referent -- to the upper left hand corner of the panel then laying out wooden “lines”, or “stages”, from which he builds up his vocabulary of simple patterns: orange triangles, gingerly balanced scales, green “staircases”, a scrap of wall-to-wall, wooden dials, a peanut on a pike. Though seemingly familiar, these aggregate forms and patterns function more like nonce words, teetering between sense and nonsense, the realized and the incomplete, the familiar and the strange.
Within the second room of the exhibition Gocker presents a suite of 24 drawings of interiors on pulpy, yellowed end pages taken from discarded library books. Each drawing shares the same title, See You in the Morning, and is framed with one of six colors. The drawings, done in thick pencil, suggests the setting and striking of the same set over and over: a bedroom, sparsely furnished except for pillows and blankets, a window either open or closed, a door either open or shut, a plant, shadows, a nightstand, the floor.
If Scaredy Cat City is a place, the three framed assemblages in the third gallery, each titled It’s Just Another Room, are where the visitors stay. Glued down rags and the scraps of old clothes frame the tiered abodes of the figures Gocker has glued, wired, and nailed together from old toothpaste tubes, Bitburger cans, kitchen sponges, and other anonymous household detritus. Childish conceptions of the living and dead are confused and redirected: ‘shades’ made of old work shirts and bric-a-brac scrap move among and replace the foilheaded beings at the tops of these ad hoc hierarchies. And the photograph of a friend, ten years younger than the artist, sits somewhere among these fragments covered by a piece of paper… Age catches up, it seems to say and not say, the scraps become us, we go on.
Ben Gocker was born in Rochester, NY in 1979. He received an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work was recently exhibited at Wallspace and he performed pieces from, and exhibited work based on, his novella “The Pisces” at Interstate Projects in Brooklyn. He has also given readings at Simone Subal Gallery, James Fuentes, Regina Rex, and the New Museum. His works are in private and public collections. Gocker’s work has been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, The Village Voice and The New Yorker. He currently lives in Queens, NY and is a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library.