Cowboy Wisdom is a solo exhibition by artist and professional preparator Andi Crist opening at Belong Gallery on November 5th, 2021. Sculpture and installation-based works blend old and new sculptural mediums for the artist, such as joint compound applications, drywall structures and newly, ceramics. The show prods at the habits of exhibition-making as a museum worker using tropes of the industry, particularly the practice of “cord management”: the act of hiding and tidying electrical cables to disguise utility in an otherwise clean, white, conceptually voided space.
Gently humorous and droll, Cowboy Wisdom features a generous number of brightly colored ceramic extension cords lassoed and wrangled in various wraps and coils, which consume the brick walls of the gallery. The space is treated as something of a utility closet exposed, and objects generally unseen, such as planning blueprints, packing materials, tools, cables and empty paint cans are executed in alternative formats and mediums, each of which are exercises in representational aesthetics, attempt on display, and the successes and failures of work.
As a working artist, educator and freelancer, Crist is not unlike many museum workers in the city, most of whom maintain jobs as exhibition-makers and preparators to support their own studio practices. Considering the relationship of work and “the work” and their function within an active gallery space, Crist’s sculptures mimic familiar objects with playfulness and formal approach; generating decorative displays of what would normally be active, utilitarian elements of exhibition-making.
Cowboy Wisdom maintains an attitude of self-awareness, practicality and the precarities of work-on-display. In an Art21 interview discussing Bruce Nauman’s 2000 video piece, Setting a Good Corner, Nauman quotes his ranch partner Bill Riggins’ reaction to the video, saying “Boy, you’re going to get a lot of criticism on that because people have a lot of different ways of doing those things.” When a job requires precision that will inevitably be under the microscope of criticism of other workers in the field, one is set to doing the task well, efficiently, and with intention. With that spirit in mind, Cowboy Wisdom is an attempt at a job well done, with a keen eye towards practice, making and display as forms of being, not only as a maker or worker, but as a human making a living working.