Artists Stewart Uoo
Venue Mendes Wood DM
Andrew Durbin writes specially for this exhibition,
I used to go to a restaurant called Earth Matters to think. Located on the Lower East Side, it was a three-story vegetarian café and grocery where I would decamp almost daily to the isolated third floor to work. It felt like a world apart from the rapidly gentrifying lower Manhattan that has always oppressed me with its glassy new apartments that have displaced so many of the neighborhood’s longest residents. Of course by the black magic of real estate, Earth Matters closed in 2012, too, and the building was torn down for “residential condominiums.” The restaurant promised to someday reopen in Brooklyn. It didn’t. Since then I’ve never had anywhere to think. Which, like, to require a specific place to do something so fundamental as to think is both a terrible luxury and an awful idea to keep about oneself since places never stay put in the shifting and ugly markets that parcel out buildings to sell between developers, and whatever led to my ability “to think best” there (amid so many vegan cheese options) over anywhere else would have eventually run its course anyway, leaving me behind and in need of somewhere else to go. It was inevitable, but isn’t the fantasy that things aren’t always so inevitable pretty convincing when you’re ordering a plate of vegan-whatever that has obtained the look and taste of meat lasagna? The lasagna was, of course, great. In any case, I’m more or less over it but not the condominiums, a word I’ve never quite understood in terms of its literal and lexical value over “apartment,” though I accept that anything Latinate likecondominium immediately evokes a churchy aloofness that is preferable to the unusually plain French and Italian word apartment, which sounds too common to refer to real luxury. My grandmother owned a “condo by the beach,” itself a tiny but formidable genre of living that, except in its size, wasn’t very different from my apartment in New York so I never really quite got it. Its key feature was never square footage anyway, I suppose, but rather her view of a bay in which dolphins liked to play with one another. Whenever they appeared, we would all go out to the balcony to watch them, impressed by their seemingly endless energy. It’s like a picture, my grandmother would say. I didn’t understand how it was. In sight of them I never felt awed so much as forced into a sentimental acceptance of the world’s beauty as Florida’s east coast presents it, beaches, boats with men fishing off them, seagulls, a sunset blasted through with orange, yellow, red, purple, colors that somehow were both reflective and metallic. The dolphins leaping at the horizon condensed into prism of nature that was always “breathtaking” as my grandmother’s condominium’s brochure advertised it, a photograph of an nearly smiling dolphin leaping over waves on its cover. The lobby kept these brochures in a rec room for residents to share with visitors. This material billed the condo’s location as “an exceptional view of Florida’s celebrated coast” and “a unique home on the Atlantic unlike anywhere else.” These vague but likely convincing phrases shouldn’t ever be deployed to describe the world but I imagine everywhere they form the essential if canned poetry that sells this landscape to potential condo-owners, assuring them that the presence of dolphins will remake their world into a gorgeous paradise they can adore from a balcony fifty stories up. The view is not the same everywhere.
Stewart Uoo was born in California, in 1985. He lives and works in New York. His work has recently been featured in group exhibitions, such as: Künstlerhaus, Halle für Kunst & Median, Graz, 2014; the 10th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, 2014; Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, 2015 and ICA, London, 2015. In 2013 he had his first major museum exhibition, Outside Inside Sensibility with Jana Euler, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, curated by Jay Sanders, where his work is now in the collection.