Mess Haul


At first blush, it’s easy to pass over Richie Budd’s messy suite of sculptures at Priska C. Juschka as visually unimpressive, inert. These random clusters of appliances, lights, and foodstuffs, inelegantly fused into reliefs via black rubber caulking, look like something Budd’s fellow Texan Robert Rauschenberg hawked up on his way to inventing his “combine paintings.”

Looking closer, certain items recur, constructing a theme: disco and siren lights, security cameras, Foreman grills, popcorn makers, bubble machines, perfumesamples—all things associated with the sugar high, and then the sugar hangover, of consumption. Tiny car-key remotes dangle from various sculptures. Press their buttons, and a mechanical belch issues forth.

The numerous electric cords sprouting from each work aren’t incidental either: You’ve got to feed these machines. They’re meant for you to plug into. Play with these sculptures and the various contraptions light up, rumble, come alive; leave them alone and they revert to disheveled blobs.

The objects Budd incorporates represent all five senses in a deliberately fragmented way: Screens play security-camera feeds at cocked angles, chopping up space; the scent of a pile of popcorn crashes into a nearby “Shades of Vanilla” Febreze. Budd makes atomization a theme—one often finds sealed plastic globes embedded in his sculptures, containing specimens ranging from Cheetos to a dead mouse. If his works don’t register as visual wholes, it’s because they’re portraits of a mind bombarded by trashy mall culture, unable to focus; these combines don’t combine.

There’s a vaguely dystopian, critical air to all this, but one shouldn’t miss how it’s swept up by a groovy, genial vibe. Consider the show’s centerpiece, a freestanding tower that incorporates, among other things, a Casio keyboard, a toilet seat that can shoot pineapple-scented steam, a popcorn maker, and a grill (ask for popcorn at the desk, bring your own meat). Speakers drone a goofy-creepy motivational tape: “What is completion? What is my backup plan?” The whole installation offers less a real critique than a haunted-house ride, with its portrait of the schizoid effects of junk culture as the clunky animatronic demon you’re happy to be frightened by.