Set in Stone
10/23/15 - 11/15/15
HOWARD ST - New York, NY
Dylan Lynch

It has been sixteen years since my last confession.

Ever since my baptism, I had a force-fed, faith-filled, church-going upbringing that remained unquestioned until my late teens. Every Sunday, my father, mother, three older brothers, and I would go to church where I would doodle, pay as little attention as possible, and lie to the priest when it came time to confess. He, in return, would assign me an arbitrary number of Hail Marys and Our Fathers to recite and, with as little work as possible, I had my first communion and was confirmed. I was a proper Catholic, destined for the pearly gates.

During that forced-faith time, I sang soprano in a successful boys choir from 1997 to 2002. We performed Handel’sMessiah every year for the holidays, recorded for the score of Good Will Hunting, and toured Europe, singing in some of the world’s most famous cathedrals. I was introduced to the idea that success in something creative required endless improvement; I developed my skill through daily vocal lessons and summers spent learning theory and singing in hospitals for the old and sick.

Although I began to abandon my responsibilities as a confirmed Catholic - refusing to go to church or repent for any sins - I remained intrigued by my religious upbringing. The aesthetics of the church never escaped me.

At twenty-five, the potential of a career as an artist became a bit more promising, and I was able to stop freelancing and pay my rent making sculptures. Gradually, a new system of values developed. Seduced by the polished quality of objects made by top-tier artists, I sought to emulate that at a scale I could aspire to. As acquisitions of my work became more consistent, I began to explore sophisticated and costly metal fabrication and coating processes.

The temptation to produce fetishized sculptures similar to those sanctified like idols in New York museums led my production ambitions to exceed my natural progression as an artist. Inspired to create at a caliber beyond my technical expertise, I went into debt financing a practice I could not sustain. I now had to seek employment fabricating and installing for a scenic shop in Greenpoint, purely to substantiate my own work’s heavy reliance on outsourcing. Fortunately, I loved clocking in and out of a job where skill, craft and work ethic superceded context, social politics and market swings. I was, however, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

After working these jobs for the past year, removed from the studio, I am abandoning fabrication and starting from scratch - with plaster - to share my thoughts about impermanence.

 

 

For his exhibition Set in Stone, Lynch has articulated a series of statements on the realities of observance and transgression, permanence and instability, moderation and indulgence. Through sculpture, site-specific installation, and recorded performance, he exposes his biography and practice for inspection. The gallery space serves as his workshop, confessional, and altar.

The components of Lynch’s project echo an earnest personal statement he has written to accompany the exhibition, charting his trajectory from childhood to the present day. Through this narrative, Lynch admits to his own aspirations, his missteps as an artist, his skepticism of the culture surrounding the production of works of art, and ultimately his restoration of belief in the creative act. 

A room laid in marble contains a framed family photograph of Lynch as a singer in the Paulist Boy Choristers of California, a pastime from his boyhood long since abandoned when his Catholic upbringing was disavowed by his adolescence. On a wraparound bench, three portable CD players contain an original recording of Lynch and his fellow choristers performing Handel’s Messiah. The player, now an outdated, bulky device, was equally technological as it was social for a generation of youths, catalyzing an adolescent independence, permitting a sense of discrete escapism from familial, cultural, and academic constraints. 

The marble, however, reveals itself to be no more than vinyl floor tiles, individually adhered to the concrete beneath. Paired with a raw steel barrel, these components conjure artistic gestures Lynch has made in the early stages of his career. Here they are laid bare for judgement in a constructed purgatory, both sham and genuine. The imploded barrel, unlike earlier counterparts, which Lynch had gilded in paint by highly-specialized metal fabricators, has been sandblasted down to its raw material, exposing the skin to the natural elements. No longer protected from oxidation, the now vulnerable object rests on its side atop a blanket of merino wool, hand-knitted by the artist’s mother. 

A small opening in the hallway wall provides a view into a side room containing the excess materials from Lynch’s installation. A mesh screen, akin to those found in the confessional booths of churches, veils a scene of half-empty plaster bags, wooden molds, and debris - the remnants of Lynch’s authorless labor, deviating from the past years surrounding his controlled, outsourced method of production. Abandoned as if in mid-effort, the space captures the energy of the creative process, while suggesting a lack of closure, the endless perfecting of an idea. 

The door to the room has been sealed with the plaster blocks Lynch molded individually by hand within the confines of the space. A pair of headphones emerging from the center of the wall features a recording of an actual confession Lynch made recently at St. Francis of Assisi church - his first in sixteen years. The cable to the headphones is restrictively short, forcing the viewer to move in closely, facing the wall directly. As Lynch confronts his history of sins, the listener plays the dual role of trusted confidant and voyeuristic accessory. 

In the exhibition’s main room, a single sculpture of a baptismal font, the pool of holy water used in traditional christening ceremonies, opens towards the viewer. The curved walls with their stepped entrance, and the glassy surface of the water beckon forward in silence. The plaster blocks ascend gently above the shallow basin, their individuality subsumed by their collective form. Lynch’s manual undertaking in producing and assembling the blocks was but a means to an end. The transparency of the font’s construction and the rational simplicity of the blocks’ design elicit a sense of amelioration, mixed with Lynch’s acknowledgement of the inevitable passage of time. As ideas and images wane, they are cleansed, and the cycle begins afresh with Lynch returning to the fundamental tenets of his practice.