Jon Laustsen’s miniatures; and AS220’s ‘Print Lottery’

Works-in-progress
By GREG COOK  |  September 11, 2012

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FOUND MINIMALISM Laustsen’s Fall, Float and Fly.

Jon Laustsen of Woonsocket makes miniature construction sites — tiny rebar, scaffolding, wood framing for concrete, and cinderblocks being assembled into buildings on dollhouse-sized or model railroad-sized plots of dirt. His sculptural language draws from engineering and contracting, with an eye to how buildings-in-progress are a sort of found Minimalism. The diminutive scale makes it feel playful, cute, and opens up imagination. The results have been some of the best sculpture being produced in the region.

Laustsen's constructions often suggest stories about what stood on the site before, about what is coming soon. But the framing for the buildings rambles on strangely, and things are in the wrong places. Foundations float in the air; walls seem to run through doorways. Sometimes he mixes precisely scaled-down miniatures with actual-sized boards and concrete, creating a sense of vertigo as you try to reconcile the two scales. His pieces at AS220's Pop-Up Gallery on Westminster Street in June mulled our Great Recession's housing market crash. His sculptures often seem like dreams — nervous, beautiful — of all the demolition and fresh construction that has been integral to the Providence "Renaissance."

"Terrestrial Contact," his new exhibit at Craftland (235 Westminster St, Providence, through October 6), is mixed, because the work feels constricted by him, perhaps, trying to make affordable objects suitable for apartment walls. 8-bit Lazer Floors suggests pixilated clouds assembled from mini-stained oak planks, or maybe old flooring salvaged from a vintage dollhouse mansion. They have jazzy patterns but don't have the soul that he's capable of.

Stronger is Fall, Float and Fly, a wall relief assembled from a jumble of mini-wood framing that might remind you of one of the old upstairs offices of downtown Providence. At left, the studs for a wall run right through the middle of a doorway; at right is the peaked framing for a roof. The various grids of studs play off each other like a Modernist abstraction. No title (rising footing fragment & scaffolding) is a tiny metal scaffold (note the detail; it's easy to overlook Laustsen's craftsmanship) standing next to a slanting wood frame with a concrete foundation poured inside. But the scaffolding is shimmied up on a weathered board laying on the dirt ground. And the foundation is elevated — to scale — a dozen feet into the air. It must be for castles in the sky.

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PRECARIOUS BALANCE Laustsen’s Terra Landing I.

Terra Landing I is the beginnings of a cinderblock house set on a concrete foundation precariously balanced on scaffolding on a plot of earth. Inside, two corners of walls stand out into the middle of the room, and seem to rise taller than the planned ceiling. The bottoms of these plasterboard walls are painted with silhouettes of branches — matching a little twig that wiggles in through one of the four windows/doors. It feels unsettled — all this elaborate building set on a rickety, jury-rigged foundation.

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