BENJAMIN YOUNG'S Material Affair goes like this: sparse towers of weather-gnawed wood stand in the center of the Appendix Project Space garage. Against a white wall, half of a frayed bungee cord is in a scant 3D triptych with a piece of mesh and a pouch of welding sticks. A multi-dimensional explosion of steel rods joined with twine spans across a wall and between the ceiling and floor. At the heart of each study within Material Affair, Young says he's exploring the tension implicit to the creation, use, and decay of modern structure—often looking at balance and impermanence through an object's present and past.
According to Young, Material Affair started with the objects featured in his untitled 3D triptych. As Young found these random objects, he noticed that while they had been discarded, they all still held a narrative of creation and use, rooted in natural form (the unrefined base material) and synthesis (the human input that shapes unrefined materials into their utilitarian units). For example, the welding tools started as mined metals and were then processed into thin sticks.
These observations on natural form and synthesis were then extended to wood—Young's three studies on wood occupy the floor space of the Appendix garage. The first, a stump-wide crosscut, is suspended in the air from an eyehook. Young says this unrefined slice implies the first step in processing a felled tree, when a lumberjack cuts off sections "in his own rhythm... designed for expediency and task (not for art)." The next piece in the series uses two beams of wood joined by rubber belts, showcasing the intentionality of the milling process—cutting logs at specific angles to expose desired patterns in a beam's grain. The last assemblage—three logs of firewood stacked and restrained by a string—shows the impermanence of structure, only "a pause in a series of possibilities," as Young puts it. When added up, these arrangements of wood walk us through the harvesting, refinement, and decay of lumber-based products—finding a balanced, yet tension-ridden view of humanity's relationship with natural materials.
As a continuation of this study on tension, Young says that his assemblage of steel rods is "a new form, with its own history"—held together with twine to accentuate the inevitable decay of manmade structures. The piece's right end defines a thesis of order, featuring rods arranged like scaffolding, in conjoined skeletal cubes. The center section represents its antithesis, abandoning the horizontal and vertical lines of the cube pattern in favor of chaotic planes and random shapes. The final section of the piece opts for a contemplative medium point between order and chaos, incorporating both cubic and randomized forms. The overall effect is a thicket of metal rods growing up a wall and simultaneously toward the viewer—suggesting that oppositional forces like existence and decay will always coexist.
Young's challenging approach to meaning, and Appendix's decision to feature such work, is refreshing—creating a point of contrast to the art institutions around town that are adopting widely accessible programming in what seems to be a survivalist reaction to the recession. Because Appendix exists outside of financial obligations—selling nothing and operating under a low overhead—the young group of artists that run the gallery have been able to maintain their curatorial mission: to showcase challenging conceptual works which inspire discussion. As evidence of this, there is Benjamin Young's Material Affair.