TOKYO — A fun thought experiment is to try to picture alien creatures that had to evolve on worlds that are vastly different in nature to our own. As I look over the sculptures of LA-based artist Brendan Monroe I wonder what harsh environmental laws created his blobby biped ceramic lifeforms. These, along with some of Monroe’s drawings and paintings, were on exhibition at Curators Cube in Tokyo as part of Mammatus (January 14- 29, 2017).
The fishbelly pallor of many of them suggests some kind of aquatic environment— a dark ecosystem, perhaps cold because I get the sense that they’re putting on weight to keep warm. The glaze makes me wonder if salt in the air has crystallized on their skin. But if they live in an aquatic world, then why are they bipeds? And while one creature appears to be dragging its soggy bulk across the ground, others display more human qualities. I’m not sure which shocks me more, to be honest. Is the feral one more of an eyebrow-raiser than the one leaning back against the wall with its appendages crossed? How about the turkey-shaped chubby one (see feature image) who appears to be waiting patiently as it dangles its legs off the shelf? I’ve always shied away from petting stingrays at the aquarium, and that rule would apply with these creatures as well, but the latter specimen is just so gosh darn adorable. It looks like it would be whistling, if it had lips.
That’s another thing: How do these little guys eat? Do they absorb nutrients through their skin? Uncanny.
The paintings seemed like somewhat of a departure until I started looking at them through the same lens. Sometimes I read story too deeply into exhibitions where narrative is more of a surface-level thing, but I suppose I’m not too far removed from the artist himself. From Art School:
Monroe’s visual vocabulary is inspired by scientific processes and internal landscapes. Combined with the expertise of the artisans at Heath Ceramics, a studio that has been handcrafting ceramic objects since 1948, Monroe’s visions were brought to life from sketches into three dimensional space.
Monroe describes his creatures as “what could be, but (were) never actually made.” This line makes me imagine a vast evolutionary warehouse, where 86’d lifeform prototypes are stored. Such a place would be a treasure trove of strange and fascinating ideas and I’m happy that these misfits have Monroe as a friend.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor at cfile.daily.
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