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March 6 - 29, 2008 at Haus, Pasadena

by Rebecca Niederlander

A relatively new arrival to the Los Angeles art scene, Klutch Stanaway has found a voice in the current movement that takes the mundane and makes it exquisite. This show includes several large plywood faux boulders, large paintings on paper of these “rocks,” and numerous miniaturized space stations executed as paper models. He states that he is interested in distilling the technological awe of something as grand as a space station or a Mars Rover that man has created to explore the universe and "making ad hoc abstractions of these tools to explore my universe."

The human-scaled boulders are made by randomly sawing sheets of plywood into triangles and trapezoids, which he then assembles into the various shapes of the haphazard masses of lumber. Each piece is held together inside with only shims and screws (more about that later). He then paints the whole thing--to recreate the same plywood surface.

Why would anyone care enough to obfuscate a surface as innocuous as plywood with such painstaking attention and then recreate the whole darn thing anew? If science is a continual process of trying to understand and tame our universe, then the process Stanaway follows allows him to also control some small aspect of these objects. He is looking for those important moments that perhaps can only be found through something banal. Common materials we understand, but the faux translates the quotidian to something profound and beautiful, providing an opportunity to really see something (the grain of the ply) that usually goes overlooked. Each time he finds the right pieces and assembles his boulders, he is getting to know the wood better. He is giving himself time to try to understand it. The viewer is gifted to examine the results of what appear to be very personal journeys. They are personal investigations of his ability to trust that things will work out.  He describes it as "a clue to an exploration of how we navigate this complicated thing called life."

Foreground: No title, 2008,
house paint on plywood.
Background: "Crystalline Plywood
Template," 2008, house paint on paper.

No title (detail), 2008,
house paint on plywood.

"Crystalline Plywood Template,"
2008, house paint on paper.

Providing further clues, he has nestled a monitor along one edge of a boulder. Like a vacation photo album that begs to be shared, the monitor shows an image of inside the boulder, reading the clunky parts--the shims and screws. But he has placed a series of mirrors in there as well, so that all that clunkiness becomes beautifully kaleidoscopic.  The piece becomes a sort of Eamesian “Powers of Ten,” at once a telescope to some distant place and a fantastic internal voyage.

Stanaway finds there is a loop of reference that becomes spiritual as the original thing abstracts further and develops more skins. But he's also keen on the "play as learning process" of it all.  After all, these are grand toys he's making, huge oversized kaleidoscopes that provide moments of “oooh” and “ahhh,” much like the giant robotic toys his companions at JPL play with.

Modeling NASA's vehicles in his work is not new to Stanaway.  In a group show last year at SolwayJones called “Sound & Motion” he showed “Deep Impact, Hurling through Space,” a work from 2006 done with colored pencil, gouache on paper, plus plywood and electronics. In it, a paper spaceship slowly orbited a plain plywood box.

After all, the artist and the scientist are very much alike. Each invents the thing that hasn't been there before, each hoping for satisfying answers.