February 21st - April 5th, 2014
In Exile Sun, Tristin Lowe (b. 1966, Boston, lives and works in Philadelphia) presents a solar system anchored by a star fashioned from denim jeans, whose form is realized by inflation. Orbiting the star are a host of works that reference the cosmic/sacred (metal and neon comets) and the body/profane (articulated foam legs). Both jeans and inflation technology have been touchstones for Lowe. Worn jeans--in this case family castoffs--are like skin, a stand-in for the body. They reflect the individuality of their previous owners through scars, tears, patches, and wear marks. Here, Lowe plays with several ideas that he has investigated over time: sacred geometries realized through lowly means (in this instance, the star shape), the body and the senses, abject domesticity, and creation narratives. Stars, through a balance of nuclear chain reactions, simultaneously implode and explode in order to generate life-giving energy. Lowe, using jeans shaped to form a star, conjures the elegance of implosion and explosion, the cycle of birth, death, and regeneration. The jeans are fused together at the waist, suggesting that the absent torsos have disappeared into each other (implosion) but their inflated legs suggest the radiant energy of a star (explosion). Adding further resonance to the idea of the star as life-giver, Lowe's ongoing use of air/inflation is another metaphor for creation: the idea of breathing life into limp fabric and plastic forms has been pursued by Lowe over the years in works such as Alice, 1998/2011 (a 19-foot tall cyclops Alice in Wonderland), Dumbo, 2001 (a pink elephant), and Mocha Dick, 2009 (the albino sperm whale).
Lowe's star-shaped jean sculpture merges the abject with the philosophical, raising questions about our place in the universe. During Lowe's Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2012, he studied hypervelocity stars or "exiled stars"--refugees from black holes. An exiled star is the renegade twin of a binary star that has been explosively ejected by a black hole (its companion has either been absorbed into the hole or continues to orbit it). Literally becoming a shooting star, the exiled star brings along its own solar system of planets and matter on its unfathomably fast journey, flying through space at speeds as great as two million miles per hour. Exile Sun, with its combination of scrappy and elegant sculptures orbiting a denim star, is Lowe the tinkerer's take on this astronomical phenomena that physicists are just beginning to understand.
Throughout his career Lowe has mined the crude and rude, the absurd and abject, and the mundane and metaphysical in pursuit of tentative answers to deep questions about our place in the universe and the meaning of existence. Playing the role of the garage hobbyist cum alchemist, Lowe employs jerry-rigged technology transforming humble objects that rise above the quotidian and venture into the realms of the philosophical, the scientific, and the occult.