Joel Morrison Has a Steel Life Crisis at Almine Rech
Los Angeles-based artist Joel Morrison turns somewhat familiar objects into super-shined artworks via the material of steel. He has been using the polished metal to cast found objects into highly detailed, composite sculptures since near the beginning of his career, with a technical finesse that allows for the melding of high and low references, putting everyday items—sometimes literally—on sparkling pedestals. The range of textures Morrison achieves runs from the absolutely smooth to the carved and engraved, with sculptures on plinths appearing like inflated mylar balloons.
The artist’s usual references to everyday items that are re-cast and spruced up admit steel’s utilitarian purpose in our lives, while elevating the metal’s status to a luxury. Many of the new works on display as part of “Steel Life Crisis” (at Almine Rech’s Mayfair location) take on the abstract forms of art history, rather than real-life objects. The wall-mounted pieces of the “Target Painting” series are reworkings of Frank Stella’s protractor paintings, as shown by their segments and curves. Their mirror-like surfaces at once reflect and fragment the viewer’s image, distorting their likeness, while calling for visual interaction. Morrison’s transformations of steel once again make for surprising effects: Minimal Heartthrob and Minimal Glock (both 2015) belie our expectations; their surfaces in relief appear like cushioned and stitched fabric, not alloy-hard metal.
There is a reflective interplay between these hung geometries and the floor- and plinth-based sculptures of the show. The Arctic Circle Jerks (2014) takes on the trophy or bust-form of Morrison’s previous works in a humourous Pop amalgam, mixing cast long pine-cones with the sleeves of a puffer jacket. Corner Piece (2015)—a sunrise spectrum on the floor in nickel-coated aluminium—apparently nods to Kenneth Anger’s occult-inspired 1972 film Lucifer Rising, as well as to Minimalist Robert Morris’s 1964 work of the same name, revealing Morrison’s hybrid mix of references—this time with a glitzy, slightly camp edge. “Steel Life Crisis” shows off Morrison’s technical prowess and art-world humor; the gleaming presence of his works are as striking as ever.