When taking in the work of Chadwick Rantanen, death doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet, its currents ripple throughout Alarmer, the artist’s current solo at team (bungalow). Housed within the show are deer and duck decoys as well as fly and rat traps—items designed to facilitate the demise of living beings through attractive, and deceptive, strategies. In reality, though, Rantanen is less concerned with the end of life than in the deceitfulness and potentiality inherent to such objects.
Comprised of just six works that make shrewd use of team’s interior and exterior settings, Alarmer is by turns a continuation and a departure for Rantanen. Works such as Triple Play Motion Doves and Crow Spread (all works 2017) exemplify tactics of intervention and restructuring that have been central to the artist’s practice. These sculptures incorporate bird decoys whose battery components were retrofitted to accept Rantanen-designed adaptors, enabling AAA batteries to operate instead of AAs—an action that frustrates and ultimately deteriorates their intended functionality. To keep them active, the artist’s winged adaptors will need to be replaced by gallery staff and, eventually, their owners—making clear that for Rantanen, his art is not only the interrupted object set adrift, but also the temporal and quasi-site specific activity that it facilitates.
Unlike the artist’s manipulation of mass-produced objects, works such as Hanging Strips (Yellow) and Admitting (Green) are entirely of his own design. A multi-part flytrap and an oversize rat trap, respectively, they offer an abject take on objectified duplicity, even if their hardened glue is incapable of ensnaring vermin. Admitting (Green), the show’s most dissonant and engaging work, commingles allusions to a rat trap and a hospital admitting room, allowing that we are all subjects of deceit as much as we are perpetrators of it. Despite such caustic allusions, moralizing is not the takeaway from Alarmer, but rather it’s that Rantanen’s art renders unseen systems visible, highlighting that potential can be seized even in the most familiar of places.
Image: Chadwick Rantanen, Alarmer (Installation view). Image courtesy of the artist and team (gallery, inc.).
Originally published by Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles, March 30, 2017