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Kitten at Thrust

Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Untitled, 2008, ink jet print with mixed media, 8.5 x 11 in.
Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Untitled, 2008, ink jet print with mixed media, 8.5 x 11 in.

Andres Laracuente, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and
John Patrick Walsh
Jane Kim / Thrust Projects -
114 Bowery #301, New York NY
16 January - 22 February 2009

It’s funny, and maybe telling, that Thrust Projects is a short walk down the Bowery from The New Museum. Thrust’s current exhibit, Kitten, has the earmarks of recent New Museum shows – a precise mix of media and somber colors within varied types of work, and an equally precise subsequent placement of those works.

Kitten particularly recollects Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century, an exhibition that marked the opening of the New Museum’s Lower East Side location. The two exhibitions, while very different in scope and ambition, share an emphasis on the curious, the found, the discarded and the repurposed. A series of objects – a double-headed cane, two paddles of the whacking variety rather than the boating, etc. – are carefully lined up against one wall of the gallery at Thrust. The piece, Disciplines Disciples, by John Patrick Walsh, reminded me of Abraham Cruzvillegas's Canon enigmatico a 108 voces from Unmonumental. Beyond the formal similarities the two seem to operate with a similar logic, to work in a similar spirit.

Comparing a three-person group show to something as ambitious as Unmonumental is of course unfair. However, this distinction between the two is what makes Kitten notable – the exhibition and the venue are mutually appropriate. Exhibitions like this one, filled as they are with often unbeautiful oddities, sometimes come across as displeasing, inaccessible, or at worst, pointless. However, in no way does a single show discredit the individual works exhibited. It becomes then all the more necessary to show the right work in the right way. Kitten, organized by artists Andres Laracuente, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and John Patrick Walsh (along with guests dropping by to do accompanying performances which have marked Kitten’s tenure) is a model for artist-organized exhibitions of sculpture and mixed media works.

Thrust Projects is housed in an intimate space, whereas the ratio of the grand scale of the New Museum’s galleries to the curios contained within made Unmonumental unecessarily hard. (Humorously, many opined last year of the New Museum's relative lack of space when compared to New York's other major museums of contemporary art.) The difference is like seeing a macau in a petting zoo instead of the jungle. It’s just easier to get a thorough look at the petting zoo.

Works like those at Kitten require a good close-up, particularly not to miss their humor. The down-the-rabbit-hole approach to art making works the best when it’s funny, and Smoking pipes with shoes by Walsh at Kitten is a fine example of that. The piece features two exhaust pipes with an old pair of men’s shoes sitting on top. While I looked around, the gallerist lit two sticks of opium incense that were poking out the pipes. The piece looked ready for takeoff, like a modern-day witch’s conveyance. Sub in incense twigs for the branches of a broom, and it was ready to go.