Faysal Altunbozar’s Gardens, at SPACES
Faysal Altunbozar’s The gardens of Adonis are cultivated for the sake of flowers, not fruit (on view at SPACES Oracle Gallery, August 25 – October 20, 2023) is an impeccably-installed body of sculpture that re-shape the gallery in which it is hung. The visual aesthetic is sterile, clean, and manufactured, yet the sound component connects each viewer’s body, through sound and vibration through stainless steel apparatuses above, creating an intimate and immediate connection between the work and the visitor. The sound is atmospheric, while the pieces look to be a cross between large, shiny incects, yet still floral.
The artist creates imaginary flowers from the soles of shoes, proposing in his artist statement, that they be considered as orifices to be penetrated, a la a gay cruising scene. The sole flora is ripe for presumably phallis-bearing, masculine penetration, but they don’t hang at “below-the-belt” level. The lustrous, fetishized-in-own-their right shoe surfaces appear wet and ready for f*cking, or “pollinating” as Altunbozar says, but out of reach. Viewers can inspect their flora-orifice at eye level, lights on, which–unsurprisingly, and seems more like the gay “dating” app, Grinder, than in person cruising in a bathhouse or at the club.
Like the Greek-mythological reference upon which Altunbozar’s show is based, flowers feed the senses beyond taste, they draw our senses, draw the birds and bees to them. In Classical mythology Adonis was loved by Aphrodite, goddess of love, before his premature death. Like a member of the 21st century’s 27-club, Adonis died leaving a beautiful corpse. Youth is fragile, and in the Western art history canon, 17th century Dutch artists made “vanitas” still-life paintings, slickly rendered in oil the abundance of the bourgeois Dutch. Look closely at this beauty and you find tiny, but carefully painted insects, ready to consume the ripest pear on the table. The most obvious of the vanitas subject matter also included lavish floral bouquets, usually with on wilted petal among them, like the wall “flowers” available 24/7 on Grinder.
The gardens of Adonis… is the first visual parenthesis to Ada Pinkston’s Searching for Mother Tongues. Like, the second (Vivica Satterwhite’s F is for Freedom), there is an emphasis on the slick and shiny, not a surface examination of sex and body, but an examination of the surfaces, real, imagined online of sexuality. Altunbozar’s shoe soles remind him of seed pods, as surfaces, holes, and impressions ready for penetration, and in the queer frame, who wields the dick may depend on the day. Likewise, penetration isn’t for making fruit of sort in Ada Pinkston’s installation in the Gund Gallery.
The most engaging part of The gardens of Adonis … is the sound, which activates as viewers move through the space, inspecting each “piece” as one moves through. Altunbozar uses stainless steel to connect with Cleveland’s steel past and present, and the sterility of the material and the sounds the sculptures is a successful attempt at bringing one to attention in the body, among the futuristic flora.
Visually, The gardens of Adonis… is a cleverly apt curatorial choice, as Altunbozar’s slick, yet meditative hanging sound pieces, with references to sex toys and hidden holes, pairs well with Satterwhite’s ethereal photographs of dancers, and fast cars and their fans, forthrightly introduces us into spaces perhaps not known to viewers. Altunbozar’s installation feels like a necessary call to culture to consider alternatives to bearing so much fruit. It is a necessary message amid the larger discourse on sex and representation, sexuality, queer sex, consumerism, pregnancy/childbirth/postnatal experience and racial inequity going on at SPACES through October 20.