For Sam Ekwurtzel, Cement Board is the New Canvas

THE DAILY PIC: At Simone Subal, Ekwurtzel treats construction supplies with a new father's fond care.

THE DAILY PIC (#1650): The latest show by Sam Ekwurtzel, one of the most compelling artists on Simone Subal’s roster in New York, has a backstory that’s as gripping as anything that’s on view. Or rather, as with most conceptualism, the backstory may be the main body of work, with the objects as mere documentation.

Through some miracle of diplomacy (or of customer relations) Ekwurtzel was able to get several building supply companies to let him have products of theirs that were all manufactured between 10:35 and 10:42 a.m. on March 30, 2016 – as witnessed by the production codes printed on the cement boards and iron pipes Ekwurtzel has on view at Subal. (Apparently, such materials need “best-before dates” as much as any grocery item.)

There’s a sense that Ekwurtzel has surrendered control to the manufacturers: Once he’s specified the times he wants filled, he doesn’t have much role in picking his materials. But by the same token, he’s forcing industry to conform to his bizarre artistic demands. Rather than choosing building supplies based on their function, he’s insisting on different, arbitrary, almost poetic criteria.

After all, what do we have, at Subal, except a single “litter” of building supplies, kept together instead of being dispersed to separate homes. The show expresses a true, parental fondness for these objects, all born within minutes of each other. Sure, to you they seem to be look-alike bits of pipe and wallboard, but I feel sure that Ekwurtzel knows and cherishes each of their marks and imperfections.

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