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In “Literally Reaching,” the artist uses alphabet and number-shaped toys to construct an arcing protuberance from his mouth, reaching for something unseen. As the tumescence swells so does the precariousness of the task; the artist’s battle with gravity is both real and metaphoric. Setzer’s work often addresses the tenuous relationship we have with language in our attempts to paraphrase our experiences of the world, and in this work he portrays the mouth as a space of both lofty construction, and great discomfort.
If at first glance, the friendly aesthetic of the work appears to be excerpted from children’s television programming, further investigation would expose its shared roots with more process-oriented artists such as Joseph Beuys, Janine Antoni or Matthew Barney. The work playfully blurs the distinction between these two languages—the extremely digestible palette of an audience-friendly educational experience and the less accessible lineage of the avant-garde. This awkward blend allows these two mythologies to reveal their common role—that of the transformation of the viewer through the representation of the abstract.
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All video and sound © 2013, Gary Setzer. All rights reserved.
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