It’s the last weekend to catch Daniel Kelly's "Thresholding" at Staple Goods. Before it's gone, Taylor Murrow reviews.
We erect buildings. They weather, deteriorate, suffer, and so we restore or rebuild. This cycle is a natural part of any neighborhood’s evolution, but if there is a place to examine this arduous process in its extremes, New Orleans is it. The sight of homes gutted down to their studs, stuck at various points of transition is all too familiar in this city.
Daniel Kelly’s works on paper address this state of architectural limbo. Since 2009, Kelly has been examining neighborhoods and the shifting urban environment of New Orleans. His works take us back to the basics—sharp lines drawn in graphite and charcoal. With gentle smudges and erasures, they look like ghostly sketches or forgotten blueprints. With no background or surroundings to anchor them, they ascend and float like apparitions. In their skeletal form, these structures suggest their own unrealized potential and the role that we play as stewards of that potential.
The largest work in the gallery depicts various types of buildings, smaller homes and a hollowed-out structure, all encased as one mass by a giant cubic grid. With heavy shadows lurking at the base of the houses, this work feels more grounded than some others, yet there is an inescapable sense of abandonment. It is as if the invisible community is at a standstill because of the unfinished project. We’re reminded of the many empty slabs and gutted buildings to which we’ve grown accustomed and their indeterminate effect on surrounding growth. Kelly’s smaller works of folded vellum reduce his forms even further, highlighting the simple lines of manmade structures. In context, these pieces seem to emphasize the stages of incremental development and expansion within a community framework.
Moving back and forth from the highly abstract to more traditional architectural representations, Kelly creates spaces in which the ideas feel exposed and open for discussion, suggesting that we are still very much immersed in the process of determining the future of our built environment—our sense of place. Even the word “threshold” that forms the exhibition’s title seems to indicate a gateway, a point of entry, but it is unclear whether we will move forward or be perpetually delayed.
"Thresholding" on view through May 6, 2012 at Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Avenue in New Orleans. The exhibition is open Saturday and Sunday, 12–5 pm.