Ryan Trecartin’s I Smell Pregnant at QED Gallery, Los Angeles

Beautiful Decay Magazine
March 4, 2006

Originally printed in Beautiful Decay Magazine (2006)

Ryan Trecartin’s LA debut exhibition, “I Smell Pregnant” at QED Gallery doesn’t relate to a biological pregnancy as it does to a creative gestation and the resulting messy art offspring. The exhibition’s roughly eighty pieces occupy five rooms in the gallery and Trecartin has named each space (e.g. “The Domestic”). Combined with A Family Finds Entertainment, his forty-one minute slighty narrative video, the exhibition delivers a world of enigmatic, experimental personal creations that are layered in domesticity, surrealist allegory, and a raver’s aesthetic. Working in nearly every medium, “I Smell Pregnant” gently commands the space with mounds of sculptural clutter and brash paintings. Many of the show’s pieces were constructed from the combined efforts of Trecartin, and artists Lizzie Fitch, Brian McKelligott, and Jesse Greenberg. It’s this wide aesthetic range in the gallery that causes it to teeter between the gaudiest of Mardi Gras parties and the most demented of romper rooms.

In the entrance hallway of the gallery, dubbed “The Neck” is Brokeback Becky (all works 2006), a sculptural collection of craft-store-bought items including miniature hay bales and latticework. This works is the anomaly in the show, almost entirely tan and appearing deliberately rural. Naturally, “The Neck” leads down the abdomen and into “The Pregnancy”, QED’s main exhibition space. Divided diagonally by two wall-like sculptures, the room contains several paintings, including one of gorilla guru Jane Goodall, and dozens of wacky sculptures.

Forming an alluring nook somewhat similar to kindergarten “stations”, and also underlining Trecartin’s abilities as both creator and orchestrator, are a suite of works by Jesse Greenberg that Trecartin has curated into the exhibition. Greenberg’s Megabinx Invitational Sculptures are large kiosks filled with dozens of abstracted geometric parts cast in deep purple and red plastics. Each of the seven interactive booths has nonsensical titles like Schlotspants and Podgplunce, a sparkly ottoman equipped with hand-held devices that spin and light up. The sculptures offer play without productivity and are the show’s only opportunity to hand the tactile creations.

Full of glitter, fluorescents, and throwaway culture, Trecartin’s work could easily be pinned down as part of a youth cult, inept and alien to sincerity, another artists working in the suspicious aesthetic that Providence, Rhode Island has been fostering for years. However, the belabored condition of Trecartin’s work coupled with the exposure of his psyche are convincing clues that he’s invested in exploring himself through whatever means are lying around. A rarity in contemporary art, Trecartin seems to believe in what he puts forth and only asks that views marvel at and explore his efforts. -Marc LeBlanc