Tonawanda News

June 14, 2013

Project 308 show is a three-artist collaborative installation

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — You might want to bring a hard hat for the latest show at Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda.

The show, “nonsense ≥ no sense,” is a three-artist installation collaboration that’s a little reminiscent of perhaps a large mousetrap — as in the board game — gallery owner Natalie Brown said. 

The centerpiece of the show is a large device down the center of the gallery made up of gadgets, pulleys, moving parts and bits and bobbles, some of which move, while others invoke a sense of absurdity or whimsy.

Recent University at Buffalo graduates Ian McCrohan — who just received his bachelor’s degree — and Ruby Merritt and Necole Zayatz — who got their master’s degrees — came together to build this installation, along with other pieces on the walls, right there in the gallery over the past week.

“I think their main vision is based on kinetics,” Brown said. “They’re just really interested in movement and audience interaction with that movement.”

Merritt — who normally works with more organic media like dirt and evaporated water, and printmaking — explained that the large, central structure in the show is meant to be evocative of machinery used to manufacture other things. Something perhaps akin to an assembly line.

She said the piece is a commentary on society’s process of production.

Our structure suggests using “ten times the amount of energy to make a cupcake or a pile of salt or a crystal,” for example, she said. “It’s an operation to a means that’s so unnecessary or absurd or hints at a little kitschiness.”

In other words, like Willie Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper machine, the structure has a whole lot of bells and whistles and moving parts just to make one tiny product.

The installation is made up of found objects the three artists have collected over the course of years, before they planned the current project or even knew each other. Most of the collecting, the group agreed, was handled by Zayatz, the one artist who’s had the most experience working with found-object art.

“Necole is the big, big collector,” Merritt said, explaining that their shared studio space at UB was often filled with boxes and boxes of computer parts, bits of plastic and wires.

“When I start collecting things, they start to own me,” Zayatz said. “I collect things people don’t want and it becomes an interesting place to be in thinking about a place to keep all this plastic and wire all this stuff nobody wants.”

“Collecting plastic is entirely fun,” she said, adding that she one time collected roughly 150 pounds of wire at once for her thesis show.

“We’re not hoarders, I swear,” McCrohan promised, though, with a laugh.

In terms of the collaboration process, the three artists said they each bring a little something different to the table. McCrohan has a background in painting and is good with constructing the pulley systems and weights; Zayatz has background in constructing installations out of ready-made products and working with electrical items; and Merritt said she’s enjoying working outside her comfort-zone in terms of media and aesthetic.

“My aesthetic takes on this kind of more scientific look ... it’s clean, it matches,” she said. “This is the complete opposite end of the spectrum.”

“Necole can’t have anything match. That idea of working with a person who is opposite of you sometimes makes the best creations,” Merritt added.

“Nonsense ≥ no sense” opens Saturday with a reception from 7 to 11 p.m. The show will be on view until June 22. Normal gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter at @DanielleHaynes1.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "nonsense ≥ no sense," a collaborative installation by Ian McCrohan, Ruby Merritt and Necole Zayatz • WHEN: Saturday through June 22. Opening reception 7-11 p.m. Saturday. • WHERE: Project 308 Gallery, 308 Oliver St., North Tonawanda • MORE INFORMATION: Call the gallery at 523-0068.