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LISA SANDITZ: SURPLUS
February 13 – March 15, 2013
CRG Gallery is pleased to present the fourth solo exhibition of New York-based artist, Lisa Sanditz. Traditionally a painter, Sanditz uses oil and acrylic to investigate pastoral and commercial landscapes and how these spaces are affected by consumer-driven manufacturing cycles. In this exhibition, Sanditz expands her practice to sculpture, continuing her exploration of the complicated exchange between commercial modernization and the natural environment into the three-dimensional realm. Her subjects are drawn from traveling throughout the United States and examining plants and farms, large and small. Through built-up, vibrant painting and expressive cacti sculptures, Sanditz exposes the often wasteful and harmful processes by which our plants and our foods get from farms to our kitchens and gardens.
In the painting Surplus (2014), Sanditz piles corn directly onto the canvas, creating a momentous mountain of gold and orange pieces settled in the middle of a quaint farming town. This is an actual depiction of Wheaton, Minnesota in 2012, when unusually favorable weather resulted in a $17 million glut of corn, which had to be piled up at the local track because the town’s silos couldn’t accommodate all of it. The painting reveals the absurdity of the sheer volume of corn (the equivalent of nearly 160 million cans of it), forcing attention on the farms’ output as well as the scale of production. In the same manner, the crop circles in Pizza Farms (2012) look like endless pie charts, the heaps of jeering, decaying Jack-O-Lanterns in Rotting Halloween (2013) are parts of a large-scale composting field in New York, and the airplane exhaust in the skies of Crop Dusters (2013) reveal the sum of a day’s pesticide distribution in the hazy air.
And the way in which Sanditz handles her paint echoes the excess of the landscapes she depicts. The globs and spikes of acrylic and oil creep off the canvas, reflecting the growth and regrowth cycles of the locations she visited. There is a grotesque quality to the thickness of the paint and the vacancies of its absence, where it has been scraped away by a blunt object, or a finger. And even though there is a frenetic, chaotic sensation to the pattern building of the crop fields (the stripes and the polka dots are obsessively repeated), there is a fastidious quality to them too. The way in which the paint is applied parallels what the artist finds in these fields: well-coordinated but unbridled reproduction.
If Sanditz sees absurdity in the consumer process of food production, she also finds it in the farming of plants for our meticulously cultivated public and private gardens, as in the cacti farms she visited in Tucson, Arizona. In her array of ceramic interpretations throughout the gallery, the artist exaggerates the physicality of her subjects, imbuing them with creaturely personalities—loopy limbs, red and blue polka-dotted skin, or fluorescent porcupine spikes. But the hat-like Styrofoam cups that drape off their heads are actually used by cacti farmers to keep their appendages from snapping off in the cold seasons: they aren’t a decorative liberty taken by the artist. What appears to be a passerby’s distastefully tossed trash is actually the recycling of synthetic materials to protect these plants, a peculiar intersection of the totally manufactured and the totally organic. It is at this point of incongruity that we are confronted with the disparity between our fairy tale conception of our plants, foods and fields and the manipulated environments that allow our consumerism to thrive.