I like the work of Patrick Renner, a Houston artist whose show titled “Vestigial Structures” has just closed at Avis Frank Gallery. Patrick reclaims, among other things, wood sheathing from demolished houses, keeping the color and evident aging of the original material while giving them entirely new form.
Vestigial structures are forms that remain but whose functionality has been lost, evolved beyond. In the piece dewclaw a peninsular shape refers to the dog’s leg with the higher unused toe. The shape of the piece itself has evolved into a geometric simplification of the reference.
What is apparent and compelling is that we witness both the former identity and the present form of these materials. This creates both a tension and a bridge. We move between these two lives of the material. The rich associations and emotions of home and family and survival and loss and memory all hover right at the threshold as we confront these new forms. There are aspects of collision between the old and new identities, and there are resonances that shift or amplify the meanings.
The piece titled wooddauber turns the relationship between old and new inside out. The walls of a house whose attic may have hidden the nest of the Dauber Wasp is reconstituted as the nest itself, with its own entrances and chimney.
In the large roof-like form titled p-shift, we first see the subtle shift of meaning in making roof from walls. Then we notice the sculpted shape of the eve edges that take on the image of an inverted head and shoulders silhouette. There is a connection between the shell of the house and the dweller, a body sheltered by the roof and itself a shell for the being within.