Rubbery Remembrances

Diana Puntar’s exhibition at Participant speaks to the odd hold of technological artifacts

Each generation is marked with technological nostalgias. At the moment, we shimmer with the sweetness of the small glowing screen, already sappy with a speedy remembrance of “early” Apple computers and Nintendo. Someone should do a study on the turnaround time of nostalgia these days.

Plastics can make me weep. Laced through a longing to be Dustin Hoffman’s “Graduate” and a sleepy childhood memory of a bathroom countertop, they have all the power of a madeleine cookie.

“Burning for You,” Diana Puntar’s solo debut at Participant, Inc., brims with a witty grasp of the powerful complexity of material and technological affections.

Puntar offers a collection of handsomely crafted individual objects conceived and arranged into an interior landscape. A massive glittering satellite hovers. A bitmapped adaptation of an oversized campfire spreads across the floor and up the wall. Upended cordwood, read easily as end tables, and speed-drilled wooden scholar stones are placed tastefully about. Simultaneously disco den and old growth forest cut for new housing, this indoor/outdoor conflation presents a commanding conceptual parallax.

It’s a land of lamination that Puntar creates. It’s a place where the method of fabrication in itself requires an acute awareness of surface. Layers upon layers of plywood are skillfully maneuvered into form, left bare to reveal their Home Depot origins or crowned with flat shells of Formica and Plexiglas.

“Petrified” is a large spool-like form. Its exterior profile suggests that of an enormous, barky slab of oak. Puntar draws a jazzy, exploding rendition of its radiating rings on its outer faces. Done in a straight-up Formica pallet—orange, red, cool white, black, gray and, of course, wood grain—the urge to tip it over and set your drink on it is incredibly strong. It stops the moment you catch a glimpse of the interior surfaces of the spool. Completely covered in mirror Plexiglas, it’s a dizzying head bob into the interior of the would-be wood. And if we have not had enough of our own reflection, Puntar provides another mirroring opportunity in the very center of the spool’s hub. There one finds a small round portrait of oneself, framed elegantly with the mechanical rings of plywood. Ikea, eat your heart out.

Puntar makes furniture that your body remembers, but it’s really for your mind. She is among a number of sculptors of her generation constructing penetrable tableaus. Banks Violette comes to mind. Puntar’s special contribution is that she invents through an imaginative mix of material mastery and associative play. It’s as if she invited Richard Artschwager and Anthony Caro to have a barbeque in her back yard—burgers, potato salad and 12-packs of Bud.

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