Let’s say that in your past life you were a sailor and now, in the present, you are happily haunted by these scenes of bygone aquatic life. You don’t know how or why you know exactly what the jaws of a shark look like but you do. You could even draw or reconstruct this anatomy if you wanted to show off or attempt to connect with this past time.
Joel Kyack‘s current François Ghebaly show Old Sailors Never Die provides that exact feeling by using sealife as a way to explore that nagging feeling that you know you’ve seen a certain thing somewhere but this way, the way you are seeing it from Kyack, is not the exact memory you have—but it’s still a memory. There is a playing with visuals that can get a bit punny and demands you laugh along with its maker since the circumstances are so unique.
The show features six works, a surprisingly small showing for a single artist and for a fancy new space like François Ghebaly. You first see things as they are: a large suspended jetski, a hut made out of a boat, the jaws of a shark, and a scribbled painting next to plastic scribble. Look closer at them: the jetski smiles at you, the hut is a heavy metal playing lounging man, the jaws are made out of kitchen knives, and the scribbles are two at-sea thoughts not too far removed from messages in bottles. Kyack through great craft setup many oceanic jokes for you to walk into and they deserve your laughter and affection. Walk up to the hut and through the man’s sandy legs to admire his oversized tasseled shorts. Go up to the plastic scribble to see that, yes, it is full of dark blue “sea water.”
In a dark room adjacent to the main gallery, there is a piece called NIGHT – INT. SHIP – DINING TABLE. This is the main event, one that emphasizes Kyack’s point: it is a rocking woody booth and table with a hanging lamp above it. There is a picture window that a painted paper rocks back and forth over: you are in the recreation of what it feels like to be at sea but done in the most basic, simplest, funniest ways possible. Imagine if your dad who was in the navy but now lives landlocked in Kansas was so distraught and nostalgic for ocean life that he had to construct and sea simulator: that is what NIGHT – INT. SHIP – DINING TABLE is. It’s the beachy community theatre answer to Star Tours.
Old Sailors Never Die is all about the familiar represented in new ways. Kyack is brilliant with visuals and injects overwhelming happiness into his work despite the serious urgency the character who made these items had in construction. The show is like the film Take Shelter but with a happy ending, where the visions of the sea are not of a bad something to come but a fondly recalled memory forcing its way back into your life.
Joel Kyack at François Ghebaly is on view now through March 8. Learn more about it here. Also, note that the people who work at this gallery are very, very nice as they greeted us and told us about the work and space without any prompting: they certainly know how to provide a welcoming experience.