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Tinkering with found objects

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In 1915, Marcel Duchamp blew the art world wide open while ushering in the era of conceptual art by hanging a mass-produced D-handle snow shovel on a gallery wall and titling it “In Advance of the Broken Arm.”

“Deep-seated” by John Tinker has the appearance of a fossilized fish or some other primordial creature while emblemizing inner conflict.

In 2017, John Tinker opened a solo sculpture show at EXHIBIT 208 titled “Paranatural” that is loosely based on the concept of the found object as art.

But wait! Before you stop reading and look at the TV listings, and Monsieur Duchamp begins spinning in his grave, Tinker is not one of those-kind-of-artists. You know, the ones that use Duchamp’s bicycle wheel on a stool or Pablo Picasso’s bicycle seat and handle bars posing as a bull, or even Duchamp’s inverted urinal posing as a fountain to release themselves from any obligation to actually build a skillset.

No, no, no. Tinker, like Duchamp and Picasso, if you view their life’s work, has developed an impressive level of craftsmanship that he utilizes to transform, trans mutate, replicate and otherwise alter found objects to the extent that they transcend their original purpose to become truly magical objects.

“Made in Indonesia” by John Tinker features great craftmanship and is an arresting assemblage.

Tinker opens the story with “Fox Fugue,” a horizontal contrapuntal composition made up of two miniature horns blasting sound at each other in the form of pink polyester resin clouds. One can visualize the horsemen on the hunt for the hapless fox whose best chance is to find Brer Rabbit’s briar patch where even the hounds won’t go.

In “Made in Indonesia,” Tinker takes a found tin umbrella form and duplicates it in polyester resin, and mounts both of them on a framework embellished with plastic tropical grass. The impeccable craft includes the original stick-on manufacturer’s label on the tin umbrella. It’s just a really cool object with pizzazz to spare.

Tinker’s show is brimming with formal echoes, disparate materials and cast shadows that cause each object to become a distinct stanza in a dreamlike narration of a surrealist’s epic poem.

In “Equipoise,” Tinker mounts a tin bowl next to its twin made from polyester resin. Again, the craft is perfect, but the shadows tell the story. The opaque tin casts a darker shadow mediated by the shiny tin’s reflection on the wall, while the translucent polyester bowl casts a brighter and much warmer shadow.

There were experiments with Kirlian photography years ago that captured the aura of living things. In “Equipoise” and several other pieces, Tinker has emulated the Kirlian effect.

Like the artist Dan Smith, best known for his artists’ materials supply house in Seattle, Tinker likes to work with stylized cactus motifs. He’s made several that employ toothpicks or slivers of bamboo for prickles that are less threatening than the real ones here in the high desert.

In “Opuntia Blanca,” Tinker echoes the three-dimensional prickles on the top half of the piece with tiny black dots on the bottom segment. It’s as if the two were folded together and then pulled back apart. But, in the end, the idea of echoing forms is the final arbiter.

The ubiquitous Goat=head does not escape Tinker’s scrutiny in “MF Tribulous Terestis,” a beautifully carved long-horned spike that does share a kinship with Picasso’s bicycle bull, but I digress.

Nearby is “Ambidextrous (Maybe),” a strange hand-like carving that juts out from the wall and features three long, spindly fingers from which a single glass bauble dangles. The entire piece is coated with phosphorescent paint that I’m told glows in the dark. Cue the Twilight Zone theme song.

This is a wonderful show by an artist who spent many years at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts as an exhibition preparator. It’s great to see that his creativity is no longer institutionalized. Two thumbs up.

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