As far as quantity goes, the 36 ceramic sculptures and 25 photos crowding Nicole Klagsbrun’s side gallery suggest that Sean Bluechel is more than ready for his first major Chelsea show. In terms of quality, however, his creative profusion—and a goofy hedonism conveyed by ubiquitous smiley faces, multiple ceramic spliffs and an assortment of phallic objects ranging from digits to a corncob—threaten to distract from the show’s real gems: Remarkable shape-shifting objects conjure fantastical scenarios.
Though the ceramics are the main draw, Bluechel’s photos of totemic assemblages cobbled together from cardboard tubes, Styrofoam, tinsel, balloons and a very accommodating nude woman (who seems to have been shot in a basement) have a furtive quality, as well as a postdebauch air that is in keeping with the sculptures’ juxtaposition of lumpen forms and beautifully colored glazes. Yet they feel more like high jinks than high art.
Bluechel’s apparent references in a few of the sculptures to such artists as Jean Dubuffet and Yves Klein indicate that he’s mindful of the distinction. Yet his efforts work best when you overlook the visual hubbub of his busy installation and focus on select stand-alone pieces: the upside-down mushroom balanced on two blobs, titled Unshaved Wicca Girls; the quasi-camera/gun/musical instrument, rising from a dish amid a flurry of leaves, titledKill Vegans; the Kusama-channeling bouquet of protruding fingers crowned with a laurel. They all deliver their paeans to insouciant perversity with concision and humor.
Originally published in Time Out New York, issue 799, February 3-9, 2011.