Assembly 1: Unstored

Assembly (Monticello, NY)

The logic of aggregating the work of friends and compatriots of the Mexican artist Bosco Sodi (b. 1970) in an old Buick dealership in a once prosperous village in the Catskills is, let us say, elliptical. A stunning needle in the haystack of decrepit commercial real estate, this disused warehouse has, under Sodi’s now well-developed mania for the creation of ambiguous civic arts institutions, been transformed into something called Assembly. In the development phase it was initially known as The Art Storage, and then as The Warehouse. Its mission now, at least in this first iteration, is to reactivate artworks that have been in involuntary suspended animation.

A columnless space so vast that it generates its own sense of scale, Assembly is more landscape than interior. It was designed to move two-tone, droptop Buick Roadmasters by generating manifest destiny-scaled aspiration in an era when the open road was synonymous with infinite possibility and the American dream. The trick today is how to repurpose all of that structural optimism—assuming that it is even possible to purify it—in a way that transcends the malign supremacist presumptions. It is worth trying, because Sodi wants Assembly to play a meaningful part in this community’s revitalization, an important aspect of which is the reinvention of its dormant sense of self-worth.

I’m not going to say that Sodi’s expanding portfolio of alternatives to the artworld’s standard institutions is a form of institutional critique. But Assembly is a form of institutional critique. Artists make too many things. Museums have too many things. There are simply too many things. Is an artwork that has been reduced to an unrealizable value proposition, with no prospect of a transformable viewer, still an

artwork? Not only is this not, paradoxically, a question that museums are designed to ask, it is a problem they were actually destined, as conceived, to perpetuate.

The conceptual artist Douglas Hubler (b. 1924–1997) famously explained his non-commercial practices as a way to stop adding to the global stockpile of objects. In part because artworks produced and managed as products become inseparable from assets, their meanings subsumed by financial instrumentalization, which feeds inevitably into the overall commodification of art. But since that brief

countercultural moment when Huebler and others temporarily escaped the market regime, it has only gotten mostly a lot worse.

The main argument for Assembly in this first manifestation—over and above the commitment to the renewal of civic space—is to support questions about the status of all of these art objects, which theoretically rests in the hands of their makers, sellers, owners, exhibitors, and believers. But more often than not, in fact, exists in limbo. Being stored is just about the worst fate that can befall an artwork. If I were a painting or sculpture I’d rather be dodging sticky toddler fingers in an iHop in the middle of nowhere than wasting away in a museum warehouse. Imagine the level of despondency in the conversations that go on between crated sculptures in a MoMA warehouse. They should be out in the world, helping to explain and expand human consciousness, but instead they molder, hoarded in storage: trapped behind repressive loan requirements, exorbitant insurance rates, and insane logistical price structures, their ability to mean suspended—in large part, by their monetary value.

For Assembly 1: Unstored we asked a group of artists Sodi knows—Mexican and Mexico-based artists, and a few other friends—if they would lend us something currently languishing in storage. Initially there was no thematic intent beyond setting some beloved objects free for a time. “Give us your retired, your unused, your stashed-away masses yearning to be seen, the surplus sculpture from your overfull hoard.” But as tends to happen, even in the absence of active design, meaning seems to be assembling itself. An installation of artworks owned and loved by their makers can’t fix anything, but it is satisfying to give these suspended objects that don’t particularly want to be products a glimpse of sunlight and the chance to stretch their legs.

Dakin Hart


This exhibition would not have been possible without the assistance and support of Alberto Ríos de la Rosa.