Strange Arrangements Reviewed

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DeAndre Britton and Rodrigo Carazas Portal at Subbasement Studios by Jack Livingston

DeAndre Britton’s work in Strange Arrangements consists of dissembled and reassembled furniture. In the two person exhibit, the resident artist at Baltimore’s Subbasement Studios strips the objects of much of their upholstery and padding in order to recreate them as expansive sculptures.

As the guts of these once utilitarian objects are multilayered and full of beautiful material, the artist’s ability lies in they way he reconfigures to exploit their intrinsic unique qualities. While Britton’s couch gestures may have a connection to Duchamp and his ready-mades (these are ready-mades jacked up on steroids), their gutted muscular industrial innards are visually inviting and powerful.

Dre Britton_Sealab 2021_2014
Dre Britton “The Sealab”

Couches have many symbolic meanings, such as their stereotypical role as an object unenlightened collectors buy artwork “to match,” in the interior designer sense, but in Britton’s work, the couch and the artwork become interwoven. Rather than an issue artists often take umbrage with, here the couch as reconfigured fine art is the work and so subverts the notion.

Britton cites Angela de la Cruz’s work as a strong influence, but the Baltimore-based artist has evolved his practice ambitiously since graduating from MICA in 2013, with work in group shows, including “Studio Mixx” at the Subbasement Artist Studios, “Knowing” at Area 405, and “Crossing the Distance, a Translocal Collaboration between the US and Afghanistan” at VisArt Kaplan Gallery.

Dre Britton “37th Chamber”

Surrounding and complimenting Britton’s work are the loose inviting installations of twenty-five year old Rodrigo Carazas Portal. Britton found Carazas Portal’s work on a Tumbr page and asked him to do the show. Much of Carazas Portal’s installtions are altered and improvised for this exhibition and space.

Carazas Portal was born in Lima Peru, and studied art at the Pontifical Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP) Art Program for two years and then came to the US. He is a self described “skate punk,” now finishing his BFA in Printmaking at George Mason University.

Rodrigo Carazas Portal “Untitled”

At first look, Carazas Portal’s installations look haphazard. He uses a lot of unadorned plain materials— raw two by fours, sections of plywood, cut up and connected in differing ways with various ephemera, such as books. He then attaches iconic images, such as Gandi, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Mickey Mouse, and famous soccer players, to the structures, which are also often adorned with words, to expose various levels of their meaning or draining them of meaning altogether. Much of his work implies a social critique; he explores the many ramifications of post-colonialism. One the other hand, following in the footsteps of his favorite artist DeKooning, he likes to excavate his own work leaving the remains to speak for themselves.

In the exhibition, Carazas Portal’s installations are well placed to hover around Britton’s sculptures. They play off each other in surprising ways, one enhancing the other. Britton’s formal intentions are broadened by the more open and overtly content laden work of Carazas Portal, whose work, in turn, is grounded by the structure Britton’s work provides. Strange Arrangements at Subbasement Studios presents two young artists working at a maturity and skill level beyond the norm. Both are well deserving of the attention they are currently receiving.

There will be an Artist Talk/Closing Reception at Subbasement Artist Studios and Gallery on September 5th from 7-9pm.

SubBasement Artist Studios and Gallery
18 N Howard St
Baltimore, MD 21201

Author Jack Livingston is a writer, editor, and artist living in Baltimore. He the Executive Editor of Radar Redux.


Rodrigo Carazas Portal “197” back side view
Dre Britton “Sealab”
Rodrigo Carazas Portal “King Standing” detail
Rodrigo Carazas Portal
Dre Britton
Dre Britton “Guillotine”
"King Standing" detail
Rodrigo Carazas Portal “King Standing” detail
Dre Britton_Louie_2014
Dre Britton “Louie”

Photos by Jack Livingston and Rahrah, for the SubBasement Artist Studios and Gallery

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