It is an artist’s impulse to make things by hand, by any means necessary, with whatever materials are available. In Chris Finley’s new works, he takes that innovative arte povera-infused immediacy to heart, developing a series of paintings as well as sculptural assemblages constructed from a combination of store-bought, lived-in objects and original images conveying multiple narratives. From yoga balls to baby wipes, used slippers to pencil shavings, plastic containers and manipulated portraits, Finley’s deceptively casual assortments address topics including but not limited to a formalist take on planar transparency, the alarming prevalence of cheaply made plastic goods coupled with the American instinct for acquisition, an indictment of economic disparity due to the control exerted by corporations over our daily lives, and the nostalgic and mnemonic narrative potential of the re-purposed object.
But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these eccentric, playful, anti-monuments is their unexpected interactivity. In one work, a weighted pulley system must be engaged by the viewer, so that the stack of loose drawings balanced on the yoga ball is sent flying and a cache of content hidden under the ball is revealed. Made from varied objects culled from the garage and the sale aisles, the other sculptural works also reward the bold with content accessible only through physical action. In this way, he achieves performative work even in his own absence, as well as a subversion of the economy of preciousness that dominates the art market and its discourse. The accompanying paintings were executed in a related manner, engineered through a labor-intensive image-transfer process involving glue and spliced vinyl placemats, combining the semantics of refined abstraction with the messiness and MacGyverism of a craft challenge.
In Finley’s elevation of low materials through the application of high art skill, both the paintings and sculptures fulfill one of the most salient, foundational tasks of art -- to show us back our ordinary world in a new light. Furthermore, by placing such a premium on physical interaction both in the studio and in the gallery experience itself, Finley is expressing a position of extreme skepticism as to the role of technology in society, and its destructive way of sucking our attention away from the present moment into its noncorporeal vortex. This work, then, is as analog, slow-paced, and physical as it can be, and its ultimate success is giving you your attention back.
Chris Finley lives and works in Petaluma, California. His work has been included in national and international Museum exhibitions and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus,Ohio, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, Wisconsin. Finley received the SECA award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1999, a Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation in 2003 and the Pollock/ Krasner Foundation Grant in 2010.