That’s what he said when we asked him anyway, and it is clearly true. His show, There is Not Anything Which Returns to Nothing, up at Grizzly Grizzly through July 30th in many ways feels more like a makeshift laboratory than an art exhibition, and I felt more like a participant than an observer.
Walking into the gallery space, the central and most prominent piece is a cast block of concrete, bridging the wall and a column horizontally, about 3 feet above the floor. Centered beneath it is a heavy-duty pneumatic jack with a metal extension pressing against the center of the block. The cement is visibly buckling and cracking, but not quite actually broken. The artist has marked the cracks in red as they have developed over time. I’m pretty sure he plans to continue to map the process.
In the far corner is a temporary sink where another block of cement or similar material is being subjected to a slow chinese-water-torture-like erosive process. On my visit, there was not yet any evidence of the effects of the dripping water, but I will check back at the end of the exhibition and see if progress has been made. The slow, but inevitable process reminded me of Arthur Ganson’s Machine with Concrete where a motor is geared down to a very slow and powerful gear ratio that will crack a block of concrete in about 10,000 years.
Other works in the show include a photographic print, four sealed containers where pieces or rebar are immersed in various caustic fluids (I was told what they were but was distracted because I thought I heard another dog), and a hole cut in the wall where the spade bit that was used had gotten twisted up in the insulation and pulled a tangle of it out. The outline of the guilty tool is in pencil on the wall next to the hole.
As we walked back home through Chinatown, Jeff Williams’ show title stuck with me and I found myself thinking about it as a kind of opposite version of Francis Alys’ Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing (Paradox of Praxis 1). Where Alys pushes a block of ice through the streets of Mexico City until nothing remains, Williams destructive actions all turn stuff into other stuff, and he maps the evidence of their transformation.
I enjoyed this show in the way that I enjoy shredding a stuffed animal and pulling out all the batting or unraveling a rope-toy. It is just really interesting to see how things break down. This kind of material testing and degradation seems to be something that a bunch of interesting contemporary artists are working with at the moment. Daily Serving did a good post on a couple of group shows at the Swiss Institute called Under Destruction I & II that deal with similar subject matter.
This one is certainly worth checking out. Visit Grizzly Grizzly
319 North 11th Street 2-d (2nd Floor)
Gallery hours are Sat & Sun 1 to 6 pm