Jonathan Brilliant’s an artist after my own heart, elevating ordinary, everyday humble objects into the realm of the sublime. His Stick Stack Show is currently on view at the Visual Arts Center in Richmond, Virginia where Brilliant is 2011 Artist in Residence. The show is an offshoot of the Have Sticks Will Travel World Tour that began in 2009 eventually expanding into a series of site-specific installations recreated over an 18-month period in 13 different galleries. The current iteration in Richmond took two weeks for the artist to install.
Composed of items (stirrers, cup sleeves and lids, etc.) readily available at what Brilliant refers to as “his natural environment,” namely the corner coffee shop, he transforms them into wondrous sculptures. I particularly loved the monumental, The Richmond Piece, an undulating wall of 70,000 interwoven wooden coffee stirrers held together by tension and compression alone. It has a pleasing organic quality thanks to the material and amorphous shape. Well lit, it casts dramatic, twiggy shadows that extend the piece well beyond its physical borders, creating a negative image that splashes against the wall and floor.
I also loved Brilliant’s works on paper, which are elegant and retrained. The stir stick impressions are fresh and serendipitous and the lithograph, The GR Haze and laser cut, 18 Rabbit were just plain beautiful.
Brilliant may be making a comment on the caffeinated culture we live in, but I like to think he’s just working with the materials at hand. Certainly, the labor-intense, almost OCD nature of the work suggests a practice that is caffeine fueled, or at the very least Brilliant is tipping his hat to the jag and jolt that’s found within a cup o’ joe.