Bob Szantyr- Playing the Sounds of Yesterday

APRIL 8-MAY 13, 2023

Bob Szantyr, “Inhabited Frame 1,” 2023
oil on panel, wood, danish oil, hardware
48 x 44.5 x 1.25 inches

Anyone who has ever walked through an abandoned or half-demolished house has wondered at the objects left behind. When architecture breaks down we are left to resurrect meaning based on what falls out of its pockets. What if–inside the walls of a home–someone had left us specific, memory-laden clues on purpose? Szantyr evokes just this kind of inverted, heart on sleeve, exoskeleton of memory membrane in his first solo exhibition.

If Connecticut Spiritualism were a thing, Szantyr’s work would be a shrine to it. Rather than communicate with dead people, he communes with the spirits of past objects from a certain place and time. Szantyr has spent the last several years collecting mass-produced yet personal talismanic objects and encasing or combining them into distilled memory sculptures. Treated reverentially, each commercial object emits an aura of the history of its use, its provenance, its story. The histories interrelate in Szantyr’s sculptures the way belongings do in a home: grandma’s vase, college textbooks, a once-favorite CD, a deceased cat’s collar. Szantyr’s sculptures exude their past lives, but are trapped in amber (actually resin), forced to mirror themselves back in an infinite play of opposites: spiritual/material, personal/commercial, work/play, and found object/fine art.

Szantyr’s paintings are more straightforward, with a twist. In each, a small window of sky inhabits a gleaming framing armature echoing the wood studs behind a sheetrock wall. Here Szantyr reminds us of the permeability of the domestic space and a home’s capacity to hold our hearts no matter how far we range. The sky paintings hold crystallized moments of skygazing we associate with reverie, daydreaming, boredom, aspiration, mystery, UFO hunting, bird-watching, dozing in the passenger seat of a car. Titled “inhabited frames,” the images therein are selections from a floating database of unaffiliated images of the heavens, occupying their frames rather than being framed, insisting on their objecthood, tethered to the frame, as the frame is to the wall.
Lastly, Szantyr presents a wall-mounted sculptural micro-library: four binders containing over 100 meticulous drawings processing current events in a four-color palette mimicking off-register mechanical screen printing. In this as in every medium he uses, Szantyr processes memories and thoughts as collections, binding them together into something strikingly new.