“Oooo wooww!” was Clementine’s reaction to Paul Kittelson’s new show at Devin Borden Gallery. Kittelson’s skill as an artist is the ability to tap into the unbridled joy of the material world, even when the objects to which he refers are decidedly banal. His cheeky humor is evident even in his depictions of disasters. Each scene is painstakingly rendered in layers of glass and textured contact paper.
So few of the objects in the suburban scenes he creates are shaped by aesthetic sensibility. Convenience, conformity, the accumulation of electronics and tchotchkes over time form patterned landscapes, which in places are blasted apart by some unnamed catastrophe. There is something so intimate about these exploded pieces, the way that some violent intervention, (a storm, a bomber) not only rends I-beams but objects lovingly collected on a shelf.
In contrast to the complex, subtly narrative scenes are a series of folded lawn chairs and one of shopping carts. There is a sweetness to the lawn chairs, orange and green plaid and aluminum under glass, like a specimen of an old man’s life. Kittelson plays with the scale cartoonishly, shrinking and shelving them on one side of the room, and blowing them up to giant size on the opposite wall. Both the shifting perspectives Kittelson offers in terms of scale and the squashed dimensionality of the landscapes offer the charm of a dollhouse. The moments of chaos are easier to perceive at a distance. The disasters, as far as we can see, are bloodless. There is comfort in explaining the world this way, as a series of cross-sections or thinly sliced slides. It allows us to fool ourselves (if for a moment) into the “wow” of recognition.