New YorkColby Bird: Unavoidable Blemishes
Halsey McKay Gallery presents Unavoidable Blemishes, Colby Bird’s 5th solo project with the gallery. The show marks 4 years of isolated art production by Bird, who has spent the last 5 years in the town of Coxsackie, New York.
Since relocating upstate, Bird has worked in a third floor attic, an abandoned firehouse, a storage warehouse for the Twelve Tribes Community, and currently, in a recently-shuttered diner. Each location has provided inspiration; thematically via its history as well as physically through the raw materials left behind by previous owners and operations. The blue collar and commercial nature of each location further informs Bird’s art making that already skews toward valuing labor and material history.
The show’s title is taken from a Salvador Dali quote in his biography The Secret Life of Salvador Dali:
“My mother’s death supervened, and this was the greatest blow I had experienced in my life.
I worshipped her…
I could not resign myself to the loss of a being on whom I counted to make invisible the
unavoidable blemishes of my soul.”
Death, as well as other unavoidable and often ineffable forces such as age, gravity, entropy, and beauty are at the forefront of Bird’s mind and art. He reshapes these weighty themes into sculptures that exude joy and curiosity.
Works like Everyone is Always Late exhibit the dueling themes present in this body of work. At first blush, the formal playfulness and basic color palette reminiscent of vintage circus colors, imbue the works with a joyful innocence. Upon deeper examination and interaction, it becomes clear that this initial reading belies a darker side. The slowly decaying lemons trigger a hair-dryer hidden within the wood pyramid–blowing faster and faster on a candle, hastening its death. When a small exterior knob is wound and released, a slow, elegiac version of Strauss’ waltz, The Blue Danube, plays from a concealed music-box, providing a plaintive soundtrack.
Visitors to this exhibition are encouraged to activate each work under the supervision of the gallery attendant. Alternatively, visitors can request and view a short video of the artist activating each work.
Colby Bird (born 1978; Austin, Texas) received his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Halsey McKay Gallery, New York and East Hampton, NY; Grice Bench, Los Angeles, CA; Fitzroy, New York, NY; Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX; University Galleries at Texas State University, San Marcos,TX and has been included in exhibitions at Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO; Arthouse, Austin, TX and Hagedorn Foundation, Atlanta, GA. His work is held in prominent private and public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art. Bird currently lives and works in Coxsackie, New York. He represented by Halsey McKay Gallery and Lora Reynolds Gallery.
Courtesy of the artist and Halsey McKay Gallery
Portrait of a Drowned Man (After Hippolyte Bayard), 2017-2020
Wood, drywall screws, copper sheathing, brass screws, drywall screws, rope, brass pin, lag screw, fruit, pleather, wire, spring, pivot hinge, dread, Metal wire, metal wire
109 x 133 x 67 inches (276.9 x 337.8 x 170.2 cm)
I Am Not an Animal, 2018
Pleather, wood, metal hinge, burled wood, linseed oil, wood stain, mineral spirits, wood filler, lightbulbs, paint, burning jealousy, railroad nail, slag glass, electrical switch, bad luck
52 x 17.5 x 21 inches (132.1 x 44.5 x 53.3 cm)
Fruit Piano, 2017-2020
Fruit, wood, wood stain, linseed oil, brass ball catch, wiring, actuator, brass plumbers chain, copper bicentennial souvenir bell, the peace that Tracy hoped I’d find, aluminum, lead, clock radio, light bulb, dry wall screws, brass screws, brass knob,
brass bell, wood glue 70.75 x 29.25 x 16 inches (179.7 x 74.3 x 40.6 cm)
Paint, wood, linseed Oil, mineral spirits, wood stain, raft pump, rubber hose, drywall screws, brass screws, bliss, candle, fruit, brick, children’s building block, wire, alabaster, spring
46 x 12.5 x 34 inches (116.8 x 31.8 x 86.4 cm)
Coxsackie Dynamics, 2020
Wood, light bulb, drywall screws, mineral spirits, wood stain, linseed oil, paint, leather, wiring, brass screws, brass pin, electric mixer, alabaster, wood filler, steel wire, plaster, caning
36.5 x 18 x 24 inches (92.7 x 45.7 x 61 cm)
Lindsey Doyle, 2016-2020
Wood filler, wood, glass, brass knob, brass plumbers chain, fruit, candle, brass screws, leather, drywall screws, an abiding need to tell James Bae how much everyone at Friedrich Petzel Gallery makes fun of him, brass chain, brick, alabaster
electric motor, mineral spirits, billiard ball, wiring, light switch, paint, wooden door knob, brass Pin. 62.25 x 21 x 28 inches (158.1 x 53.3 x 71.1 cm)
Doss Was Abject Torture, I’m Glad it’s Closed, 2018-2019
Silk flower, wood, glass, brass knob, leather, leather, sterling silver, lead, mineral spirits, copper, glass from Hudson river, wire, food coloring, slag glass, paint, seething anger, music box, lightbulbs, light fixtures, mirror, dog toy
49 x 34 x 21 inches (124.5 x 86.4 x 53.3 cm)
Rise Up Lights, 2018-2019
Paint, brass hinges, nails, leather, lightbulbs, wood, wiring, lightbulbs, mineral spirits, light fixtures, electric mixer, priapism, silk flower, steel rod, rubber ball, clock radio, Pleather, wood stain, linseed oil, drywall screws, brass screws
70 x 17.5 x 12 inches (177.8 x 44.5 x 30.5 cm)
Nooses Give and Gas Smells Awful, 2019
Nails, pleather, music box, steel, wood, lightbulbs, thread, copper, metal hinge, drywall screws, wood filler, listlessness, wood stain, Linseed oil, mineral spirits
50.5 x 22 x 24 inches (128.3 x 55.9 x 61 cm)
Everyone Is Always Late, 2017-2020
Wood, hinges, candle, wood stain, linseed oil, brass, fruit, plumbers chain, persecution complex, mineral spirits, brass pin, vintage hair dryer, music box, iron weight, paint, steel wire, dimmer
50.5 x 16 x 19 inches (128.3 x 40.6 x 48.3 cm)
It’s a Goddamn Lemon Tree, 2019
Burlap, linen, aluminum, wood, mineral spirits, copper, wood stain, linseed oil, paint, leather, fruit, lightbulb, light fixtures, sympathy, wiring, Woodfill, music box, Glass, brass handle, steel wire, poultry staples
72.5 x 24 x 27 inches (184.2 x 61 x 68.6 cm)
Craig Dated a Cheerleader in Highschool, 2018-2020
Metal I-hooks, wire, wood, wood stain, brass screws, drywall screws, utter joy, mineral spirits, linseed oil, paint, lightbulbs, fruit, leather, brass knob, neck massager, Electric switch, skeleton key, light fixtures
50.5 x 16.5 x 34.5 inches (128.3 x 41.9 x 87.6 cm)
Kiwi Distillery (Culpable Deniability), 2017-2019
Leather, wood, wood stain, linseed oil, alabaster, fruit, brass plumbers chain, brass knob, drywall screws, brass screws, spring, clock radio, methylated spirits, mineral spirits, toaster, glass, antique bottles, The peace that Tracy hoped I’d find,
food coloring, bread, plastic, 1960s furniture building manual, 1990s Los Angeles art gossip magazine, copper pipe, plastic hose, lightbulbs, wiring, light fixtures, plaster, paint, wood glue, thumbtacks, lead weight, steel chain, brass ball catch,
bocce ball, aluminum. 72 x 24 x 18 inches (182.9 x 61 x 45.7 cm)