Contributed by Jacob Patrick Brooks / Titled “PLEASE IT IS MAKING THEM THANKS:),” Louis Osmosis’s debut solo show at Kapp Kapp Gallery in Tribeca feels like a 1,000-piece puzzle that’s been dumped on a table. Everything fits together, but it’s not immediately clear how. It resembles an installation but stops short of establishing any obvious context. We’re left to wade into a sea of sculptures and make our own connections. But there’s joyful cuteness mixed with a pedal-to-the-metal urgency in every object. Each straddles the line between appearing genuinely ready-made and looking like something the artist wants us to believe is a ready-made. It’s easy to imagine Osmosis getting an idea he thinks is funny and searching exhaustively for the right objects to embody it. His reluctance to compromise adds weight to his endeavor.
Art-historical references abound. In Big Crate and Small Crate, Osmosis utilizes Matisse-style cut-outs in satellite dishes that are affixed to what appear to be the same crates that were used to transport much of the work to the show. The dishes work as a pun, encouraging us to reflect on what a satellite can be and what it is. Matisse iconography – stars, dancers (though they may be falling), and the figure from Icarus – enriches the experience. Despite the care taken to make them, they are subdued by the uncertainty of their status. He may be trying to elevate a mass-media vehicle to high art or bring Matisse down to the level of suburban accessory. Either way, it’s engaging and amusing, if a little disheartening.
Osmosis is clearly poking fun at art as a bastion of high culture. My favorite example is Piss, which incorporates an image of a parabola of liquid created by sunlight burned into wood with a magnifying glass. The piece suggests a filter you might use for a close-friends Instagram story to offset the sad-factor of looking for an Adderall plug at 3 AM. It also alludes and responds to Bruce Nauman’s Self Portrait as a Fountain, having metaphorically swallowed, digested and expelled the fountain’s effluent. Somewhat ironically, the arc of the stream is high and proud.
Any remaining sense of the sacred is not spared. Money Heart #2 is part of a sculpture triptych that sits on the left wall of the gallery. It’s a heart-shaped balloon made of cash. Osmosis didn’t invent the practice of covering a balloon with papier-mâché but makes it his own with the arch deployment $2 bills, which are considered novelties. While they reference the kind of schmaltzy gift that grandparents give, the tacky multitude of a presumed rarity in one place quickly obliterates their sentimental value. In this light, the heart shape reads as mockery.
Although the space is filled with objects and sculptures, the show is defined by what’s missing. The whalebone with the subwoofer on the floor rumbles rhythmically, but we don’t get any of the mids or treble. Water is referenced constantly but is never actually present. The closest we get is a ship in a plastic water cooler jug, the image of piss burned into a panel, and a manmade sculpture of wood chewed by beavers. Combined with art-historical references, this conspicuous gesturing-to-but-absence-of implies the impoverishment the post-modern art. With revolutionary fervor and optimistic possibility gone, what’s left? Osmosis doesn’t provide an answer. Instead, his work at once evokes despair and glee over the prospect of a cultural wasteland with no hierarchy. When all frontiers are foreclosed, the tools that allowed that to happen are susceptible to stealing, recycling, and ridiculing. There is, of course, hope in that.
“Louis Osmosis: PLEASE IT IS MAKING THEM THANKS:),” Kapp Kapp Gallery, 86 Walker Street, 4th Floor, Tribeca, New York, NY. Through June 4, 2022.
About the author: Jacob Patrick Brooks is a Brooklyn painter who grew up in Kansas.