What You See Ain’t What You Get

To always believe one’s eyes is naïve; to categorically mistrust them is cynical. The space between these two outlooks reminds us that there is a reality beyond what is immediately apparent. Thad Kellstadt’s drawings and mixed-media sculptures are an attempt to define this world, the one that exists outside of our ability to apprehend it. His latest exhibition, “This House Ain’t A Home,” illustrates and “imagines the possible interior lives of objects and materials,” revealing that our constructed, articulated environments are ultimately composed of things–like, actual things.

The art at Eastern Expansion is presented with the institutionalized irreverence that one might expect from a Bridgeport gallery. None of the pieces have titles or placards, and the names of the artist and exhibition has been scrawled on the wall in wavering penmanship. Upon entering the narrow storefront space, the viewer is confronted by a massive cardboard wall covered with white tape. A looped animation of a distorted brick wall moving ever upward pours out of the jagged opening. If one takes two paces forward, the seemingly consistent façade of the art object is summarily destroyed and its guts are laid bare.

Another television lies on the floor, nesting in a shawl of artificial Christmas tree branches. The screen is set to a similar brick wall pattern, emitting a luminous red from fronds of plastic green. A representation of nature enfolds a representation of artifice. The “natural” conifers that have been appropriated for cultural ritual show off the unflinching materiality of their construction. What lies behind our window into nature, what awaits us when we attempt to approximate that which exists apart from us? The resounding reply: a brick wall.

Kellstadt’s  drawings line the walls, lending an air of convention to the exhibition. Mostly sketchbook-sized line drawings, they are cartoonish, whimsical, and barely representational. Incomplete, distorted forms interact with sloppily written phrases that start and stop, some of which are misspelled. Even words, it seems, are susceptible to the fraying and erosions of the material world–a blaring reminder that this drawing is not a person, this TV is not a wall, this gallery is not a storefront, and this house isn’t necessarily a home.

Eastern Expansion, 244 W. 31st St. Through December 1. Hours by appointment only. easternexpansion.blogspot.com

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