REVIEW, March 4, 2014
NOTES ON LOOKING
Devon Tsuno: Watershed—"Presenting Nature as Democratic"
by David De Boer
Devon Tsuno’s democratic sensibility is apparent on the walls of both the Weingart and Mullin Art Galleries at Occidental College in his exhibition Watershed. Sifting through multiple processes, Tsuno’s exhibition presents two paradigms: The first is a straightforward hang in a white cube gallery of labor-intensive abstract paintings made with spray and acrylic paint on handmade paper. These paintings take on the subject matter of Los Angeles’ non-native vegetation and bodies of water, reminding us that the free sunshine and (almost) free water of Los Angeles creates a generous environment where all can flourish. A second kind of democracy is explored in a gallery that partially simulates domestic space. Here, a homespun parlor (that old-fashioned meeting place of public and private) is simulated in the gallery, using digitally printed wallpaper and a faux fireplace. Over the fireplace, where might be a family portrait, or a photograph of the man of the house, hangs a Risograph print. There are bookshelves in this room too, as there might be in a real parlor, and the volumes that are featured more deeply express Tsuno’s interest in democratic, cooperative action: each of the many books is part of an ongoing collaboration with Oxy Book Art students using Risograph and letterpress techniques. Additionally, handmade wooden milk crates contain 10,000 prints from this same project.
Much like exploring the Los Angeles landscape, navigating through Tsuno’s various modes of display and creative process presents the viewer with an artificial division. On one hand we see an artist fully engaged as a sole maker; incessantly laboring over material with the desire to create one-of-a-kind objects. And on the other hand, we find an artist, educator, and curator presenting work that is, by its use of reprographic technologies and group effort, absent of the unique. This democracy of nature, presented as such, offers the viewers a space that is both and neither—not about the solo artist over the group, yet highlighting both; and it also highlights the unique within our encompassing, democratic environment.