Jim Condron: Collected Things at Art Cake

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Installation view, Jim Condron: Collected Things at Art Cake, photo courtesy of Etty Yaniv

Collected Things, Jim Condron’s terrific solo exhibition at Art Cake in Brooklyn prompts us to question our relationship with the objects we interact with—objects that we use, discard, and transform through memory and art process. At the heart of this exhibition are Condron’s recent series of sculptures, which brings together everyday objects and ephemeral materials he has collected from artists, writers, and thinkers who participated in the project—these individuals include personal acquaintances like Graham Nickson, Lucy Sante, Rebecca Hoffberger, Carl E. Hazlewood and Cordy Ryman. Among them is the pioneering painter Grace Hartigan, who was Condron’s teacher and for whom he also worked as a graduate assistant in 2004, four years before her death. This body of work highlights how Condron’s process of collecting, editing, and adding other materials, activates the lineage and history of everyday objects, transforming them into playful art objects with renewed vitality and psychological presence. 

In the back space of the exhibition, Condron showcases works made from collected objects of anonymous origins and ownership. While the distinction between the two bodies of work is subtle, it is noticeable. One immediate difference is the overall scale—the sculptures representing people Condron knows are significantly larger, some sprawling on walls and others spreading on shelves, almost taking on an architectural quality in response to the expansive space.

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Glenn Goldberg’s Things, 2023, Oil, road stencil, Goldberg’s drawing,  paper, wood, steel, fur, rubber, leather, 94 x 48 x 5 inches
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Carl Hazlewood’s Things, 10 x 8 x 7 inches, Oil, acrylic, plaster, paper, plastic, cotton, wood, steel, 2023, photo credit of Mitro Hood 

On the other hand, the sculptures made from objects of unknown origin tend to be smaller and more contained. I am curious to further observe in Condron’s future works whether this difference in scale is influenced by the space or by the genealogy of the objects. That said, the two bodies of work share more than differ—all of them possess a sense of humor, often tinged with darkness and absurdity. They also exhibit a diverse range of color sensibilities, reminiscent of painterly gestures. The titles of the artworks add subtext, incorporating textual fragments from literature or snippets of conversations.

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He has no conception of what it is to fight, 2020, oil, plastic, foam
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Condron’s exploration aligns with Thing theory, as presented in Bill Brown’s foundational essay Thing Theory, challenging the notion of objects as passive and emphasizes their role in shaping our experiences, cultural meaning, and social realities; Bruno Latour’s investigations of human and non-human agencies, blurring the subject-object distinction; as well as Timothy Morton’s work in object-oriented ontology and ecological thought, which highlights the interconnectedness of beings and things. When viewed through this lens, the objects in Grace Hartigan’s Things carry an additional poignancy.

Positioned at the lower left corner, the bright pink plastic shoes—quite literally the last pair she wore while painting, bear a remarkable significance. Equally remarkable is the paint stick she used to mix paint and thinner for one of her final works, along with the intimate presence of her pillow, reminiscent of Matisse’s cut-outs—an enduring inspiration throughout Hartigan’s life. The composition of the sculpture is based on Phillip Guston’s 1970 painting Cellar. All these elements intertwine within a complex network of relationships, interacting and influencing each other, gradually unveiling hidden layers of meaning. Does this embody a fetish of the mundane? Is it a memento mori? Or perhaps it evokes a sentiment that encompasses both longing and a bit of irony—nostalgic longing for modernism with a wink? Most likely it embodies elements of all these interpretations. This artwork, like the majority of Condron’s work in Collected Things, invites us to contemplate the significance of everyday objects, to reflect on the transience of life, and maybe also to stir up a bittersweet yearning for a pivotal epoch era in art.

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Grace Hartigan’s Things, Grace Hartigan’s Crocs, her paint stick and pillow, antique chair, steel, 2023 

All photos courtesy of the artist unless otherwise indicated

About the Artist: Originally from Long Island, NY, Jim Condron lives and works in Baltimore, MD and Brooklyn, NY. Condron earned his MFA at the Leroy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA in Art and English from Colby College, Waterville, ME. He also studied at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. His work appears nationally and internationally in galleries and museums as well as in corporate, university, public and private collections.

About Art Cake: Art Cake was founded in 2019 by brothers Cordy and Ethan Ryman to provide space for production and events to creatives in New York City. Located in a converted industrial building from the 1920s, the space takes its name from its previous uses as a patisserie and paint distribution factory. The 13,000 square foot space was renovated by architects Joe Smith and Dylan Sauer in close collaboration with the founders and features a 4200 sq. ft. pristine event venue with 17 ft. ceilings and authentic historic architectural details that retain hints of the building’s past. The Art Cake artist residency provides individual workspaces to artists from around the world working in a variety of fine art disciplines. Artists-in-residence rotate every one to two years with an aim to build and support a diverse community of New York City artists. The residency complex on the second floor is comprised of ten studios and a shared communal area. 

Jim Condron: Collected Things
Sculptures from the Collected Items of Artists, Writers and Thinkers

May 20 – June 24, 2023
214 40th Street, Brooklyn 11232 

Artist Talk: David Cohen in conversation with Jim Condron, Jun 17th, 5-7PM