Mitchell Charbonneau: Senseless
1. An exhibition of new work by New York-based artist Mitchell Charbonneau; these recent cast resin sculptures test the limits of durability in the context of artistic reproduction
2. Across a series of cast resin sculptures and installations that replicate everyday utilitarian objects, Charbonneau underscores how production, use, circulation, and disuse determine the accrual and loss of an object’s value and emphasizes the anthropomorphic current that teems below the surfaces of these objects
Off Paradise presents Senseless, an exhibition of new work by New York-based artist Mitchell Charbonneau.
Mitchell Charbonneau’s recent cast resin sculptures test the limits of durability in the context of artistic reproduction. The artist places literal and figurative pressure on utilitarian design—those objects made to be collapsible, portable, and transferable—and situates durability as both a material condition as well as a material property, linking the inert world of objects more directly to human intervention. Across a series of cast resin sculptures and installations that replicate everyday utilitarian objects such as folding chairs, shelving units and air fresheners, Charbonneau underscores how production, use, circulation, and disuse determine the accrual and loss of an object’s value and emphasizes the anthropomorphic current that teems below the surfaces of these objects.
We may tire of the seemingly endless cycles through which sundry materials appear and reappear in our lives, but as Charbonneau shows, traces of the human teem within each of these materials, and we are increasingly beholden to their utility. We expect our objects to function so that we may carry out the most basic of our tasks. Charbonneau turns our attention to this dependence by intervening—violently—at the heart of the object’s function. He smashes folding chairs with a sledgehammer to incise dents, fissures, and ruptures onto the surface of the metal, which is later translated, skin-like, into a hard but brittle resin. Chairs, piled up in tenuous vertical and horizontal arrangements, become a crucial point of intervention for Charbonneau. In their platonic ideal, chairs index the body and offer it a source of comfort and relief—think of how we name a chair’s constituent parts: arms, backs, legs. Here, Charbonneau divorces his chairs from their function by intertwining their legs and bruising their seats and surfaces; modified and manipulated beyond reasonable use, the chairs nevertheless retain the essential qualities of chairness, their forms enduring. The chair becomes an instrument through which violence is enacted and anxiety is displaced. Similarly, Untitled (Wall Support) is a series of sculptures that replicate modular shelving units, affixed and then rearranged in combinations that suggest the possibility that something may be hung, tacked, or suspended from their armatures. But bereft of any objects to perch from their many openings, they serve as reminders of their uselessness.
If Charbonneau’s works lay bare the many problems of aestheticizing the utilitarian, the works also invite the viewer to consider the limitations of aesthetics themselves when it comes to assessing art, whether for the market or for pleasure. Small variations in color, arrangement, and form make a subtle but powerful point that the options afforded to consumers, rational as they may seem, are but false options, intended to disguise the paucity of innovation in late capitalism. The promise of durability—of both materials and the systems through which they are produced—is a promise deferred and forgotten. What Charbonneau makes legible is the absurdity—the senselessness—of the violent logics that undergird these systems.
— Tausif Noor