In a Perfect World at Plus Ultra
Despite its pageantry and craftsmanship, Andy Yoder’s exhibition In a Perfect World is baffling. Yoder presents a giant pair of black wingtip shoes that mostly fill Plus Ultra’s limited space, turning the gallery into a sort of oversized shoebox. The odor in the space and the shiny surface of the shoes reveal that they are made of licorice.
Yoder has clearly traveled far in his pursuit of black licorice. Included on the shoes’ extensive surfaces are licorice swirls, chunks, buttons, dogs and faux euros rimming the soles. Even the laces are made of licorice. The only place where there isn’t any licorice is inside the shoes, where the artist has used shellacked rice paper to perfectly imitate chic leather interiors. Despite their size, the shoes are remarkably lifelike, convincing from every angle. Yoder’s four drawings along the gallery’s rear wall promise some insight into the artist’s motivation for creating this odd monument.
The drawings, in which ink dots swirl and writhe on rice paper, are elegant pointillist renditions of wingtips. They seem to be in the process of dissolving, like sugar shoes placed in water. The drawings have kinetic energy. Patterned dots ripple their surfaces, mirroring the licorice spirals on the sculpted wingtips. Both drawings and sculpture have a visionary quality suggesting an alternate universe in which an object’s functionality is not so important as its metaphorical potential. Yoder, like Oldenburg, seems interested in the transfiguration of the commonplace, an ecstatic vision of mundane objects.
Yoder claims to be dealing with childhood experiences, merging memories of his father’s wingtips with wistful thoughts of his grandmother’s licorice jar. The licorice, he claims, connotes nostalgia, and the large-scale shoes a child’s wonderment at his father’s effects. But Yoder’s metaphors, when combined, work against his intended message. The shiny licorice makes his giant shoes look brand new, the sort of shoes you would find on a salesman’s shelf, not in a father’s closet. As far as desire is concerned, a child who hungrily eyes the sweets in grandmother’s licorice jar looks not to past experience, but to immediate gratification.
The nostalgia Yoder seeks in his exhibition’s title is absent from his work. In a Perfect World makes exciting and original use of unexpected material. A further effort on the part of the artist to integrate material means with metaphorical ends would deepen the viewer’s experience of his work.
ContributorBenjamin La Rocco