Zeitgeist | January 7–February 25
At first glance, the figures seem joyous. Their bright colors, bulbous bodies, and simplicity of form make them candidates for a Saturday morning cartoon. Then, a closer look, and the threads of soft pink and purple are traced to their guts, the plastic components of their faces are turned in horror, their makeshift bodies bent in pain.
Alex Lockwood’s upcoming show Awful Things, featuring his latest sculptural work at Zeitgeist, toes the line between horror and merriment, and not delicately.
“The color and the materials are all really innocent and childlike and approachable, and then what is happening to these pieces is the opposite,” Lockwood explains. “I hope people enjoy that dichotomy, this combination of surface color and joy and then the horror of the situation.”
Lockwood typically works with reclaimed materials, often in bright hues, creating organic forms and abstract patterns from uniformly manufactured components. His “shakers,” hosted at OZ Arts in 2015, are plastic bottle caps and lids strung together into color-coordinated nests that come to life when a rope is pulled. For years he has folded losing lottery tickets into jaggedly fluid shells and snakes.
The figures in Awful Things, each about 12 feet tall, are made from some of the same materials as Lockwood’s recent mini golf installation at First Tennessee Park: trashcans, cups, bowls, and the visibility marker balls used to signal electric lines to aircraft.
But these latest creations are not merely an astute use of material. They are a reflection of Lockwood’s experience.
“My most accessible work has been more abstract, very labor intensive, using one material repetitively,” he says. “With all the other work that I’ve done, I’ll start with a material and see where that goes and then try to bring myself into it. This just feels like, more than any other show, that I’m starting from a personal, clear experience or notion.”
The seemingly senseless death of a partner in 2008 forced Lockwood to struggle with mortality and he turned to horror movies, finding an avenue where he could confront death and a new source of inspiration. That chance to acknowledge the inescapable reality motivated him to create Awful Things, allowing visitors to explore their fates with a brightly colored, if macabre, spin.
“While birth and youth are celebrated, death and decay aren’t,” Lockwood says. “Not only are they not celebrated, they’re not even talked about. When I went through what I did with my partner, nobody knew how to talk about it … I think that acknowledging and discussing death is important for the people who are dying and the people who are going to die, and that’s everybody.”