Tibor de Nagy
11 Rivington St.
Tuesday - Saturday through July 27, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
At first glance, you might think that Ann Toebbe’s “Friends and Rentals” exhibit at Tibor de Nagy on the Lower East Side consists of flat architectural renderings of real home layouts. But up close you’ll see they’re delightfully detailed three-dimensional collages of the interiors of houses, it turns out, owned by Toebbe’s friends and members of her extended family in Ohio and Kentucky. The Cincinnati-born, Chicago-based artist creates the works based on social media postings and actual visits to these houses, but she uses only her memory, not photographs or on-site sketches. Toebbe incorporates flocking, cut paper, yarn, glitter, pencil, gouache, and other materials on panels in constructing these birds’-eye views that serve as unique biographical portraits even though most of them contain no people in them. The rooms are divided to resemble how a brain is compartmentalized into different thought processes and, in these crazy days, how so many of us must multitask, but the works have a calming effect, not a frantic pace. Friend: Jana features a muted brown palette, while Friends: Lisa and Tim is much more colorful, and the only one seen from a horizontal perspective of the standing house. Not surprisingly, LA Air BnB is more standard and folksy than Friend: Becky, which includes children’s toys and a flatscreen TV showing a football game.
You’ll find family photos, religious icons, the American flag, carpets, knickknacks, backyards, Christmas decorations, pets, plants, clocks, birthday presents, and a few lurking human figures, all helping describe people that we are likely never to meet but now somehow know. In the catalog essay “Ann Toebbe Wants to Organize Your Life,” Ryan Steadman writes that Toebbe “empathically [relates] to her subjects’ desire to reinvent themselves in their living spaces by making paintings that are themselves appealing coping strategies. . . . with a fortitude that usually belongs to a librarian or a paleontologist.” Each work is not to scale and is not architecturally sound, as Toebbe, who counts Venezuelan artist Arturo Herrera as her mentor, puts a little fantasy into each life. As you walk around the gallery, you’ll wonder what your home might look like if Toebbe re-created it on panel, but you’ll only be able to imagine it, or perhaps go home and reorganize your own clutter.