A plastic dog nose peaks out from a black plastic bowl filled with oblong seeds and placed atop a tan particle-board podium. The objects form a concentric pattern: the brown seeds match the flecks in the particle board; the nose shares its color with the dog bowl. This kind of formal poise, activated by a giddy twist of the absurd, characterized Peter Linden’s first solo show, which encompassed sculpture, wall works and interventions into the gallery space. A central, motivating figure in the show was the litter, that human-powered vehicle once used to carry the elite. Perhaps the snout in the bowl was there to animate the litter’s reproductive pun.
To be sure, the litter is an erotic metonym of labor and power relations: it takes two or four other people to carry the one inside. Carrier 3 (all works 2015) is a miniature wooden model of a litter, painted in an uncannily skinlike beige and displayed on a vertical steel rod. Both Carrier 1 and Carrier 2 are drawings rendered with a mossy enamel that manages to look like watercolor through delicate shading. Like Carrier 3, Carrier 2 depicts a seemingly historical object, with posts carved to resemble nude human figures and with an elongated carriage box that allows passengers to lounge as if on a chaise.
Carrier 1 shows a more experimental vehicle. Vertical, it has a millwork bench seat and a fold-out table, suspended by an exquisitely rendered chain. This object implicates not the aristocracy of yesterday but our contemporary selves, rigid before our laptops, the heavy lifting left to whomever’s outside. It’s a compelling allegory for the split between manual and intellectual labor. Yet Linden spares us the moralizing. Like Robert Gober, he would rather revel in the inescapable weirdness that can erupt when bodies and objects make contact. His works are bound up with confinement and conveyance. A second pass around the sculptures, fetishlike in their fleshy tones and metal, might easily reveal them to be experiments in dungeon design. In the sculptural wall work Hand of Gordon, an oblong form oscillates between resembling a dick and resembling a bag of money.
Perspective often transformed abstractions into figurations and vice versa. Seen from where the snout lay, the steel sculpture Table, with its four legs, was as much a dog as it was support for a vehicle or a meal. And “dog” here was as much an animal as a raunchy pet name. You had to get on all fours to adequately see Door Slot (Eye of Eddy), a 4-by-6-foot hole in the wall, just above a concrete step that protrudes into the gallery. The step once led to a door—since plastered over and painted the standard white—to the adjacent taco shop. Within Linden’s incision, the lines formed by the old door’s red tiles eerily resonated with the bars lining the window in Carrier 3. Linden didn’t just make litters. He put us in one. Window, a phallus-shaped hole cut into the gallery’s rear, reinforced this reading. The opening offered a clear view of the parking lot, situating us once again on the inside looking out. Cordoned off from cooking and service, we’re free for other pleasures. Kneel. Good dog. Stay.