Hardware as artwork?
Not that we'd advocate replacing a paintbrush with a power drill, but the notion does add another dimension to the eternal what-is-art? conundrum.
"If you go into Home Depot, the massive beauty of the materials, even an industrial product, it's an incredible discovery," says artist Daniel Habegger, conjuring up the intriguing image of a hardware superstore as minimalist art gallery. "Just a sheet of plywood, it's something so beautiful by itself, without any adornment and without making something out of it."
No, the Depot is not hosting an exhibit, per se. However, "Reduced," an overlapping two-part display by Habegger and fellow artist RC Wonderly III at the Winchester Cultural Center and the Clark County Government Center Rotunda Gallery, is about simplicity of composition -- and the complex ideas one could discover within them.
Or, as Habegger asks: "Do you see the material, or do you see something that's a window into another world?"
Already on display in smaller works at Winchester, where it will remain through April 9, "Reduced" will expand into the Rotunda Gallery showing with some larger pieces on Monday, running there through May 7.
"You get kind of lost in these pieces," Wonderly says. "But they reward the people who do take the time to look at the subtleties."
Featuring two- and three-dimensional paintings and small-scale wall sculptures, "Reduced" drew initial inspiration from the economic ills afflicting the nation -- specifically, observing for-sale real estate signs highlighted by the word "reduced," and extending the theme to the downsizing of cultural institutions, as well as fiscal constraints facing artists.
"It looks so simple on the surface and because of the palette, it's kind of quiet, but much more satisfying up close," says Catherine Borg, curator of "Reduced" and cultural assistant for Clark County. "What was interesting for RC and Daniel is they're artists whose practice is about having rigorous parameters, using really humble materials, and in some ways a simple formula. Now everyone's having to do that because of the economy."
Recessive rather than aggressive, "Reduced" does not leap out and grab viewers by the eyeballs. Pieces may appear little more than colored strips and simple backgrounds in Habegger's oil and polymer emulsion paintings, with bold, straightforward lines and clear compositions. Wonderly's grid and cubed patterns are neat geographic shapes, finely etched into simple materials such as graphite, redwood, laminate and OSB (Oriented Strand Boards).
Consequently, "Reduced" strips art to its essence, making do with less. And, just maybe, creating something more.
"We've both got that kind of romantic painter inside us," Wonderly says. "(Habegger) lets his show a little more with brush strokes, but for me, this OSB has some of the same romance, it's just that it's already in the material. I can't do anything to make it better than it already is."
While appearing visually placid and conceptually uncomplicated, the Wonderly/Habegger works invite viewers into them to apply their own perceptions, rather than passively gaze at works that make definitive artist statements.
"You can discover a lot of complex things that at first appear very straightforward," Habegger says. "Simplicity and complexity, they have a relationship with one another."
Apparently, so do a hardware store and an art gallery, suggesting that what appears to be merely useful can also be rather artful.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.