Marty Walker Gallery
Rhys Davies-Gaetano, Easy Cheese and Light, 2007; mixed media; 14.5 x 9.5 x 5 inches
Family, 2007; mixed media; 74 x 133 x 8 inches
Just past a room full of abstract paintings by the artist's father, Nick Gaetano, is a modest, raw and ultimately uneven show by a young bricoleur, Rhys Davies-Gaetano. Found objects stuck together to uncanny effect assemble a world that is simultaneously cartoonish, sad and strangely funny.
Occupying one wall is a group of untitled drawings—plans for future projects that read like private musings, journal entries or folk art with a touch that is at once delicate and crude. Images include a shark menacingly rising from the water but weighted down by a gravestone reading “RIP.” Another entry imagines an electrical cord that desperately tries to be plugged in, only to be yanked away at every turn.
All the works in the show fit in a single suitcase. When Davies-Gaetano arrived in Dallas from New York, gallerist Marty Walker asked him if he needed anything and all he said was that he needed to find a can of “Easy Cheese.” The result is a sculpture consisting of a can of this edible industrial substance with half of its contents cooked on a red-glowing light bulb.
The largest and best piece on view is Family, a title that becomes oddly Oedipal with the work of Davies-Gaetano’s father in such close proximity. Hung on one wall, Family is a series of mechanized sculptures reminiscent of early Tim Hawkinson. From left to right, there is a “Mom” composed of an electric can opener, a mixer and a hairdryer that blows up her skirt. In between the parents are two pairs of children’s overalls. Kegs of beer act as stand-ins for their torsos, spouts substituting for their private parts. And finally there is “Dad,” a pair of pants connected to a machine that periodically zips and unzips his fly.
The mechanical aspects of this piece come on and off without warning, sparking a loud crash of movement and then dying down just as fast. Like explosions of laughter or anger, this family—with each outburst followed by equally resolute stillness—seems resigned to their own unease. Family frames a situation of context, adding multiple layers of meaning by pointing to influences with both subversion and respect. Rhys Davies-Gaetano is an interesting artist precisely for this reason. He embraces tradition and the new in a combination that allows for both humor and pathos.
Noah Simblist teaches painting, drawing and criticism at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.