Tony May belongs to that rarest of breeds: a conceptualist who makes things that can be admired as much for how they’re built as for what they say. His exquisitely crafted wood sculptures – oddball creations that veer between the practical, the absurd and the pointedly critical — call forth an archetype that once defined a certainstrain of the national character: the backyard tinker/inventor. There are many versions of it. The one I think of in relation to May is Steve Jobs, a guy so obsessed with perfection that he demanded that the insides of every Apple device be built to the same exacting aesthetic standards as the parts that users touched.
uncle a U.S. patent in 1923. The contraption, May explains in an accompanying text, was the forerunner of the sliding door employed in today’s minivans. The brothers probably could have demonstrated the utility of it without much fuss. Instead, they went all-out, fabricating mechanical parts and giving the stationary elements a finely calibrated patina, as if to show how such a barn so equipped might hold up under actual working conditions. From it, you can see how May became the artist he is today.
looks like something Liberace might have set next the piano had he been a rural bluesman and not a Vegas dandy. For No Gucci Lantern IV, May bent coat hangers into Noguchi-like curves and topped them with a shopping bag to make a lamp, an act of sculptural imagination and Wileyesque wordplay meant to demonstrate the slender difference between luxury goods and studio detritus. Table of Contents II, a swipe at media culture, turns the picture tube of a large-screen TV into an anamorphic window. Through it we see a collage of book pages, each titled “Table of Contents.” Yet because of how the pages overlap and how the strange optics of the glass send a fog-like glare lapping out from the edges, the words are unreadable. Orwellian overtones hang in the air.
harsh, unforgiving light with high contrast, glossy surfaces and tonalities reminiscent of pulp fiction book covers. They’re borderline lurid and not easy to like, but there oddly appropriate to May’s self-assigned documentary task.