Ellis von Sternberg’s objects are shiny and wretched. His sculpted wads of polyurethane have passed through industrial processes and are freshly shelved. Von Sternberg’s work notifies that what is brand new will soon be world-weary and covered with dust.
DEAR SLUDGE, CRUEL SLUDGE reminds us of our devotion to oil and its transformation into plastics, synthetics, food-bases, and an infinitely wide range of petroleum products. There might not be anything more dear to contemporary human culture than these materials. Our fondness for oil is insistent, perhaps necessary, and certainly cruel. Not only do we process oil with the fervor of a fanatic, von Sternberg surmises that our beloved petroleum products inevitably lose their utility, and in doing so, demand we repeat the process.
Ancient oil propels us through watershed moments every few decades, but these rivers always snake their way back to the ocean. This is the program of a world that plugs into petro-capital. A commercial logo glows glyph-like and sacred while memorials for the inoculated are molded out of slime.
Let’s not be sore losers.
We live with it, and we live for it, and it is difficult to discern if we are in control of it or if it controls us. Did we discover oil or was it waiting to be found? Did von Sternberg haul this stuff into the sunlight or did this material inevitably snake into his studio?
Towards Slug-Juice, an essay by Collin Pressler accompanies the exhibition.
Ellis von Sternberg was born in 1990 and received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013. Recent exhibitions include Slow (Chicago) and Paper Jaw (Chicago). Von Sternberg works and lives in New Haven, CT.