David Baskin, Seasonal Variations at Freight + Volume
September 24, 2009 – October 31, 2009 / Reception: Thursday, September 24, 6 – 8 pm

Negotiating the uncertain border between the art object and consumerism, David Baskin’s recent sculpture explores the underlying agendas inherent in the “formal” properties of everyday consumer goods. In the age old battle of turning wants into needs, advertising agencies, designers and producers increasingly incorporate sophisticated aesthetic strategies to entice the public towards their particular brand.

Vaguely resembling ordinary and ubiquitous products like cars, vacuum cleaners, and shampoo bottles, Baskin begins with the objects themselves, making molds and casts directly from their forms, or disassembling and reconfiguring them to highlight their not so subtle appeals to our unconscious desires. From an industry that has long appeared obsessed with Freud’s ideas about obsession, come endless sublimations of the latent eroticism lurking underneath even the most benign purchase.

Lining the shelves of your local Duane Reade, the Dove shampoo bottle resonates an “unknown” appeal. While the Dove logo lends respectability, once removed, the bare object now becomes slightly embarrassing, as its fetishistic nature assumes a higher profile. Cast in varied, bright colors and presented in the gallery’s storefront window on glass shelves, the Brancusi-esque formal properties of these quotidian objects reveal themselves; a “pure,” universal form which, when endlessly repeated via mass production, is intended to ensure brand loyalty.

Playing a central role in American mythology, the automobile is implicated in both dreams and nightmares; its actual purpose almost an afterthought. Suspended from the ceiling and dominating the main space of the gallery, Baskin’s life-size piece Jag transforms the overt sex appeal of a sports car into an ambiguous, embryonic shape, beckoning less with its brand identity than with its odd anthropomorphism. Adopting the pervasive surrealism found in advertising and combining it with the “tactile” stylizations employed by product designers, Jag’s absence of utility refocuses our attention on the significance of consumer fantasy within the realm of the most functional of objects. Clad in leather usually associated with interiors, the vehicle is turned inside out, exposing a vulnerable skin (animal hide), which displaces the self-assured role of a sporty vehicle; its “primitive” aura belies psychological content usually sublimated by the norms of market exchange.

As we encounter these hybrids between sculptural objects, and products familiar to our everyday experience, their separation from their defining brand offers clues to the objects “true” function. Absent the commercial language, which would illustrate their intent, their underlying forms resonate with “messages” to the collective consumer unconscious. Stripped of their recognizable associations and repetitive branding tropes, David Baskin’s sculptures seem to exist in a not so comfortable area halfway between consumer appliances and aestheticized objects, free-floating former products which highlight our psychological investment in the endless landscape of consumer desire.

David Baskin received a BFA from The Cooper Union in 1987. One-person exhibitions include the Sculpture Center, NY, NY, Ingalls & Assoc., Miami, Fl and Black and White Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. Group exhibition include Carriage Trade, NY, NY; Galerie Erna Hecey, Brussels, Belgium; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, NY; Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA; Elizabeth Harris Gallery, NY, NY among many others. David Baskin was one of the original members of the Brooklyn based non-profit arts organization Smack Mellon and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

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David Baskin at Miami Project 2012
December 4, 2012

David Baskin booth installation with DNA at Miami Project 2012 (booth #617)