Art New England, September/October 2019
Utility Suite: Natalie Beall
Standard Space - Sharon, CT - standardspace.net - August 30–September 29, 2019
What are the interior lives of the furniture that we live with? Natalie Beall’s solo show, Utility Suite, at Standard Space offers a glimpse into an imagined world where objects move beyond their functionality. Beall mines thrift stores, antique shops and discarded curbside items around New York City and within her small town in upstate New York for items that form the springboard for her work. In the living room of her home, a glimmer on the edge of a heater grate caught her attention. Stripping away layers of paint, Beall unearthed its copper base. This grate became the subject of one of her reductive collages as well as a wall sculpture composed, in part, from gray felt floor pads. Both are included in Beall’s exhibition which also features around a dozen similar collages–all Untitled, sized roughly 25.4 x 19.5 inches, and vertical in orientation–alongside two other wall sculptures.
On Beall’s website, she includes examples of her source imagery, some of which have seemingly precise (often defunct) purposes such as a cast iron receipt spike or a shelf with a peculiar silhouette. Beall sketches these found objects, which she then transforms into portraits of unrecognizable, unnameable objects. She works with a limited palette of colored papers, subtle hues and neutral tones that recall those found in a stately interior decorating catalog. The furniture loses its usability and becomes flattened through the process of collage, yet the evidence of their former lives remains in Beall’s reimagined versions, detected in the netting, fasteners or hooks. This gesture–”transcendent and failing” as Beall described–embodies hopeful, humorous and deadpan overtones across these depictions of offbeat objects.
Growing up, Beall’s mother was crafty, sewing matching bedspreads and curtains in her childhood home. As Beall began her career as an artist, she often teetered between conflicting perceptions of purpose and decoration. Beall’s work advances abstracted versions of the things that inhabit the domestic realm. Her collages and sculptures, with their vestiges of utility, strike a balance between sophistication and accessibility and are at their strongest when they release a frisson of the uncanny.