"Sean Duffy's Garage Sale" proves that the objects and collections that an artist holds on to over the course of several decades have as much influence (if not more) on their work than art pieces created in the studio and displayed in galleries. The "stuff" that we hold onto reveals an undeniable truth about who we are and what we deem valuable in the landscape of popular culture, technology, art, and personal memorabilia. A treasure trove of the past and present, Sean Duffy has transported nearly the entire contents of his home garage into Susanne Vielmetter's Culver City gallery, complete with several turntables, milk crates packed with LPs and 45s, quilted lawn chairs arranged in a semi-circle near an overflowing cardboard box of Artforum editions from the early '90s, a wood cabinet that houses pictures of Duffy as young boy with his family in front of a race car, and a tiki bar littered with paintings, knick-knacks, and doo-dads. Canvases with acrylic spheres named after rock songs adorn the makeshift walls; a rusted toolbox with the drawers left ajar contains Polaroids of Vielmetter's first gallery space, and markings on the wall in preparation for one of Duffy's earlier exhibitions. Duffy is allowing us to survey and appraise artifacts from his private life; some of the objects are even marked with small red stickers with a modest price tag.
"It's interesting what people find valuable and what you find valuable," Duffy explains. "All the art students love the art magazines and there were other things that were kind of ignored like the old video games. Some things have this huge value and some things have no value and some things have value to me and some things have no value to other people."
The exhibition is a hybrid of sorts as it's an evolving installation and functions as a true garage sale--Duffy hopes to use the money raised to support his dream of becoming a race car driver. Duffy's father was an amateur off-road racer, driving the family's signature zebra-striped Toyota Land Cruiser. His father stopped driving before Duffy ever got the chance to learn. The car, however, has remained a source of inspiration for Duffy's work, allowing him to tinker with the ready-made object so that it seems the same although its function changes.
The desire to become a racecar driver is fueled by nostalgia to connect with this past, and create a future for his own family and practice. While the car is street ready, it's nowhere near the condition required to race in the Baja 1000, a three-day race from Ensenada to La Paz that Duffy plans on racing in next year. Through sales from "Garage Sale" and an online funding campaign with United States Artists, Duffy hopes to reach his $12,000 goal, which will afford him shocks, a roll cage, race seats, driving suits, and driving school lessons. "Car 23," as Duffy calls it, is an umbilical cord to childhood, a sculpture, a performance piece, and a canvas. In describing the signature paint job, he recalls "I painted all the zebra stripes by hand so the body was sprayed white and the zebra stripes have these brush strokes and as time goes on and it gets nicked or beat up, I hand paint over the damage in black so it's the odd thing where it's becoming a painting in a sense where as it goes on it gets these layers."
The car first appeared as a sculpture in "Searcher," at the Laguna Art Museum in 2010, and is now a fixture in Duffy's garage, where he fixates on the minutiae of each mechanism day after day. Duffy admits "Car 23" poses more than mechanical challenges because "I don't really work in the traditional forms, even though a lot of the studies are traditional. I kind of want to leave a lot of documentation after the race and see where it goes."
"Sean Duffy's Garage Sale" was recently on view at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, from Nov 12 -- Dec 21, 2011.