Liz Quezada-Lee and Chris Johst



May 20-June 15, 2023

Archon Fever is the first exhibition in the summer series Cherry’s happening at Carlye Packer over the summer.

The new collaborative works of Quezada-Lee and Johst take a virtual corporate-productivist hammer to the Surrealists’ beloved cadavre exquis: Lee and Johst each contribute images sourced from social media posts, fragments of memes, clip art, etc. to a Figma board.

Pulling from one another’s image-horde, the cadavre is passed back-and-forth, activating something like an app-based Third Mind. The resulting images are transferred to metal by means of an analog technique reminiscent of Rauschenberg’s. 

Quezada-Lee’s early work directly registers a matrix of raw feeling and art-historical tropes. To create it she carefully made up her face and cried real tears into pillows, couch cushions, and velvet, mounting the results on canvas to create Turin shrouds of actual emotion autorendered in facepaint. This emo AbEx suggests the frozen pathos of Bas Jan Ader or open-wound honesty of Tracey Emin. A more recent body of work is composed of gigantic hand-made armored ‘stripper heels’ and steel bunker-like shoes with razor-wire-esque defensive perimeters.

Johst’s recent show “Lord, Honey, You’re a Ghost” examined 19th and 20th Century masculinity and its discontents through the lens of America’s faded frontiers: kitsch Americana, boys’ toys, Precious Moments® hummels, and Westerns, rendered via holography, 3D printing, vacuum-formed ‘paintings’, and electronic displays with scrolling 3D printed text. A ghostly, holographic Tom Sawyer paints a seemingly endless line of fence posts that roll ceaselessly off a 3D printer chugging away in the exhibition space. Johst’s work, like Quezada-Lee’s, derives much of its force from an “untimely” tangle of neo-atavisms and cutting-edge materials/techniques.

The new works have as their basis similar material and thematic monstrum. Quezada-Lee constructs a hybrid scepter/stripper pole with wings echoing those of Hermes’ caduceus from metallic 3D filament while Johst 3D prints a taped-together tower of crushed cans in emulation of the drinking game “Wizard’s Staff”. The works’ crosscutting–an untimely mixture of the ancient and the contemporary and their programmatic actualization of the virtual–align in a variety of ways across the matrix “for-and-against” power. They  suggest not just Diderot’s monstrous “being(s) whose duration is incompatible with the existing order. “ but also Dick’s warning (monere) that: “the Empire never ended.”

It is possible, even likely, that virtual imaging/engineering apps and their extensions–automated tools that bring screen-based phantasms into three dimensions–are introducing a new, radical plasticity into the onto-epistemological manifold that we call the ‘real’

The forces of desire that have historically occupied so much inner phase-space, as well as the virtual realms of literary and artistic production (sci-fi, fantasy, ‘pataphysics, and Surrealism especially) are paving the way for an unprecedented outpouring of dreams into what Breton described as  “the poverty of the real, pointing towards “a fantastic world superimposed on reality.”

Exhibition text by Scott Benzel

Full essay here