As a partial survey of Lucy Puls’s prolific career, [just you] features 48 artworks, which range from photographic collages to eclectic assemblages, created from 1987 to the present. The retrospective format of the exhibition illustrates how Puls has combined quotidian objects, photography, and raw materials to explore the complex human relationship to material possessions.
Since [just you] is loosely organized chronologically, the first artworks viewers encounter are also some of the oldest pieces in the exhibition. Three resin-encased objects that Puls created from 1999 to 2000 are among the oldest works in the show: Lodix (Large, Folded) (1999), Diaeto et Exercitatio (Feeling Fine) (2000), and Protegens Manicarum (Physical) (1999). By encasing the objects in resin, they have been preserved and frozen in time, but they have also lost their original functions. The folded, crocheted blanket in Lodix – the type lovingly crafted by someone’s grandmother – will no longer be used for warmth on chilly winter nights. The paperback books in Diaeto et Exercitatio have been read for the last time. And the stack of records in Protegens Manicarum will never be played again. By thinking about the histories of these objects, viewers can explore how context affects the way material possessions are valued.
Many of the artworks in [just you] – most of which include objects salvaged by Puls – evoke times that have passed. She brilliantly incorporates obsolete technological items into her artworks – items like televisions and stereos that would otherwise appear outdated – so that they seem infused with their past contexts. Ad Hunc Locum (Complete Audio System) (2005) consists of a stereo system on top of two cardboard boxes, four speakers, a piece of fabric with a photographic print of a computer monitor on a curb, and a bunch of artificial orchids in a white plastic bag printed with the text, “Thank You,” in red. In different environments – in friends’ attics, at thrift shops, even in other art exhibitions – these objects can easily appear kitschy or cheap. Yet, like the rest of the artworks in [just you], every component in Ad Hunc Locum is essential to the balance and unity of the entire piece.
The artworks included in [just you] invite viewers to engage with items and images that they would otherwise ignore. They inspire recollection and reflection. Many of the objects and photographs in the exhibit encourage viewers to reassess common associations and imagine new narratives for familiar things.
Lucy Puls: [just you] is on view at Verge Center for the Arts from September 10, 2015 – October 25, 2015. The Center is at 625 S St, Sacramento, CA 95811.
Words and Photos: Justina Martino