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Justin Chance at Smart Objects


At Smart Objects in Echo Park, Justin Chance’s “Low-Life” pulls fiber processes to their breaking point. His wet and needle felted quilts are sheathed in a layer of thin silk that he treats irreverently—rips and tears on their surfaces function as subtle painterly details. In “Dying” — perhaps a pun on mortality as much as the natural dying processes that the artist uses to color his wool — representational imagery bounces in and out of focus. Apples in various stages of decay form a loose row across the top of the quilt while an abstract and nebulous form (Spider? Tree?) engulfs the composition. The silken outer layer acts as a gauzy blur, making specific readability of forms even more futile.

Butterflies feature across the exhibition — needle felted into place on a quilt, or tufted on sculptural work that embeds a rug into a box fan with hastily-applied duct tape. This bounce between precision (felt and hand-dying processes ultimately require a lot of time) and ad-hoc composition can be seen in a series of collages and sculptures that punctuate Chance’s quilted works (such as “Wormwood,” a wormwood-dyed piece of silk that’s casually draped over a desk fan). Sprinkled within these poetic works are specific images — as in “Race,” a collage on paper in which water-logged images of cars are paper-mâchéd into place using water from the artist’s own flooded studio — which adds curious legibility to the exhibition, contrasting other moments of deliberate obscurity.

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Photo: Justin Chance, “SS,” 2020-2021. Wet and needle felted wool, silk, cotton, dye; quilted, 74 x 46 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Smart Objects.