Roy McMakin’s Other Chest of Drawers & Other People includes a collection of fabricated and found furniture objects and three video works that relate to the chest, in terms of home furnishings as well as human anatomy. His sculptures are mediated by people; collaborations with woodworkers and assistants form a significant feature of the exhibition. The artist’s intentional decision not to originate or construct any of the objects on display is notable. He used, instead, a set of subjective directions to guide this series of work, as well as his keen eye for design, spending hours rummaging through San Antonio thrift and furniture stores. Additionally he chose to push his photographic concepts of scale and perspective by introducing the elements of time and movement, leading to his first video pieces in 25 years.
On one side of the dimly lighted exhibition, three prominently placed video works present unusual viewpoints of ordinary activities: moving a piece of furniture, removing clothes from a drawer, and walking through a park on a sunny day. All of the videos are 1:1 scaled and feature multiple camera perspectives placed tangentially to create the illusion of a whole. The illusion, however, is short-lived as perceptual problems arise through developing narratives. In one sequence, we see the frontal view of a worn, off-white chest of drawers; the image then changes dramatically as a man and woman-their bodies cropped and fragmented by the cameras-push and pull the chest around to show 24 possible positions of the furniture item. The viewer gradually becomes aware of the placement of the cameras and the unique points of view they capture.
An interest in point of view is also at play in three works specially fabricated for McMakin’s exhibition. He hired three local woodworkers to respond to directions, loaded with elusive adverbs, to create a conceptual piece based on the following text: BUILD A HANDSOME FIVE DRAWER CHEST. THE DRAWERS NEED TO BE THE RIGHT SIZE TO STORE CLOTHES, AND THE OVERALL CHEST APPROPRIATELY SCALED FOR A TYPICAL BEDROOM. IT SHOULD BE CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED, NICELY PROPORTIONED, AND PAINTED A PRETTY BLUE. The ambiguity of the artist’s instructions pose the problem: How does one define “handsome,” “appropriately,” “typical,” “carefully,” “nicely,” and “pretty”? By taking advantage of the subjectivity of language and perception, McMakin engages the designer/fabricator collaboration in a different way, enabling the insights and personality of the woodworkers to be showcased.
The third series of furniture-based works in the exhibition features three found chests of drawers installed as formal wall sculptures. By hanging these pieces at painting height, rotating them 90 and 180 degrees, and playing black and white components off each other, the works move away from their domestic associations toward a kind of abstraction reminiscent of the minimalist works of California painter John McLaughlin. Through elevation and alteration, McMakin not only highlights the furniture’s abstract nature and the figure ground interaction inherent within, but encourages the reexamination of one’s relationship with common home furnishings.