Joey Fauerso: Wait For It at NMSU Art Museum embeds poignant metaphors in basic, somber forms to question what happens when stability is off-kilter.
Joey Fauerso: Wait For It
June 10–September 2, 2022
New Mexico State University Art Museum, Las Cruces
Heavy. That’s how I would describe Joey Fauerso’s exhibition Wait For It at the New Mexico State University Art Museum in Las Cruces. But heavy things are also strong and, given the right balance of conditions, can be buoyant. And there lies the beauty and complexity of Fauerso’s work.
Balance and strength are undercurrents of the artist’s practice, including what happens when stability is off-kilter, in question—things shatter, structures collapse, worlds topple. Wait For It, which traveled from the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin (where it was organized by director MacKenzie Stevens with gallery manager Clare Donnelly) presents these ideas through a selection of Fauerso’s work including video, mural-size wall and floor paintings, steel armatures, and monoprints and includes a poem of the same name by 2017 Texas poet laureate Jenny Browne.
San Antonio-based artist Joey Fauerso first caught my attention approximately five years ago; I became aware of her work because of her Blue Star Contemporary Berlin residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien—installations of video and painted wood blocks and canvases, part of the ongoing project You Destroy Every Special Thing I Make (We Fall to Pieces) for which Fauerso and her kids—from whom the title originated—used blocks to build large structures that they then demolished. The poignancy of their interactions, and how “kids say the darndest things,” stuck with me.
What initially piqued my interest back then is the same that holds it now: Fauerso’s uncanny ability to embed sophisticated, poignant metaphors in basic, somber forms, with a keen eye for the visual feel of materials.
For example, in the current iteration of You Destroy Every Special Thing I Make (2017-19), installed as a four-channel video at NMSU Art Museum, two children build a tower with black blocks and forms staged against a stark white background. The soundtrack is grating at times, resonating through the gallery as the constructions eventually give way and crash to the ground, no longer able to hold their own weight or resist the incessant demands of gravity. The process is event-like, theatrical.
The black and white palette carries over into Fauerso’s paintings that depict figures as if from memory, or maybe as if trying to make a memory, eschewing tedious details for emotive heavy lines, generalized forms, volumes, textures, and deep shadows. In Utopia 4 and The Quarry, scenes of bathing or swimming nudes set amid rock formations and woodsy trees seem to shimmer with the intense light of the late-day sun or the glow of the moon. The tonal richness of the artist’s predominately monochrome work, including grays along the spectrum, is countered by the slate blue of installation accent walls, the warm creamy tint of monoprints on raw canvas, and the subtle mauve underpainting of Laeree with Flowers (2021).
Fauerso’s use of acrylic takes advantage of the paint’s potential watercolor characteristics while at other times exhausts the paint’s stickier tendencies, such as in her mural-size abstractions on unstretched canvas. Bottomless (2019) and Scrape (2021) look as though the paint has been, well, scraped, stretched, and dragged across the surface, resulting in terroir-like qualities, the character of land. The resulting fuzzy visual static of physical material pushes against experiences of blown-out digital pixels to which our eyes have become accustomed.
Groupings and individuations appear in Fauerso’s works as well: the family unit, a gathering of friends, trees, limbs (human and arboreal), clouds, flowers, stones. Under the Table (2021), a vertically stacked diptych, displays a monochrome table scattered edge to edge with all manner of still-life accoutrements, supported, so to speak, by the painting below of women in yoga poses, bumping up against or crawling past a cat and small child. A vibrant hot pink and blue-lavender atmosphere hints at alterative reads of what it means to be still.
Fauerso’s handling of form and surface begs for associations to be made—stone-like surfaces as skin and skin-like surfaces as stone. Sometimes our bodies feel stiff, heavy, and the weight of our existence is hard to bear. Sometimes the rocks and stones feel like kin.
Black steel armatures frame some of the small works, including portraits of stones as well as human bodies bending so as to mirror the shapes of stones, for example in Hard Body (2021). The square framing devices, open cubes or casings, lend an intensified three-dimensional physicality to the wall works, creating the space or box in which they exist and are considered.
Holding Patterns 1 and 2, another diptych, this time side by side, shows human figures in different states of holding each other, and small objects, presumably stones again, bundled together, with disembodied heads popping up every now and then. Everything floats in a sea of white. Will we let ourselves be carried? Can we let go, go limp, and let our dead weight become someone else’s burden?
Fauerso’s work is often described as incorporating “play.” I get it—kids building things and creating stories around what they build is seen as playtime, as fun and imagination. But the figures, landscapes, and arrangements in her paintings weigh heavy on my mind—a seemingly simple arrangement on a table, a visit to the forest, a stretch or lunge forward, a rock, a pitcher, a flower, a pear. In time, things may get crushed under their own weight, they might buoy us or drag us down. Can we always rebuild, do it again, make it the way it was, or make it better? Worse? So goes the open-ended promise of waiting…
Wait For It is scheduled to remain on view through September 2, 2022 at the New Mexico State University Art Museum, 1308 East University Avenue in Las Cruces.