Hillerbrand / Magsamen ‘Sample Sale’ — May 2013

This thing, this tuna looks boring
Stop having boring tuna
Stop having a boring life

Add this tuna putting it in like this
Now you’re gonna have a nice exciting life now
Here’s a hard boiled egg
One chop you add the pickle
You add the green onion
And ya know what’cha can do you can mix things together

– Vince, Slap Chop Infomercial, 2008

Auxiliary Projects is proud to present “Sample Sale!” a solo exhibition of consumer art objects and video work by Houston-based collaborative artist team Hillerbrand+Magsamen. There will be an opening reception for “Sample Sale!” on Saturday, May 11, from 6-10pm, in conjunction with Bushwick/Ridgewood Galleries Frieze Night.

Hillerbrand+Magsamen’s photography, video, and performances sharply reflect the psychic tensions of maintaining a “typical” nuclear family life while nurturing deep skepticism of the situation. This life, with its overflowing garages, plastic toys, and comfy couches, is a cliche America that the artists allow themselves to indulge in while presenting it for our contemplation.  Their work betrays their love-hate relationship with the manifold possessions they never thought they would confront under their own roof. As the Talking Heads said it for the ages, “How did I get here?”

Hillerbrand+Magsamen’s work draws upon the canny humor and everyday sensibility of Fluxus. “Sample Sale!” brings their invented mode of operation, “suburban fluxus,” right up inside the belly of the consumerist  beast that has long been their subject. The artist duo has collaborated with Walmart™, the largest retailer in America, to produce “Comfort,” a series ofblankets, potholders, pillows, clothing, and coffee mugs. They have taken their cheapest, most disposable possessions, assembled them by color, photographed them (using several thousand dollars worth of professional equipment) and printed them on even cheaper items, producing a dizzying consumerist hall-of-mirrors. Although – or perhaps because – the collaborating retailer made $443,854,000,000 in sales in 2012 in this country alone, the “Sample Sale” art will be available for purchase starting at the everyday low price of $39.99. The artists revel in disposability, ordering household debris online and incorporating it into a fine art oeuvre. Will collectors use these objects (for hors-d’oeuvres)? Or frame them?

Also on view is the video Accumulation, in which a man and woman (the artists) pile their personal belongings large and small—a lawn mower, toys, tools, Christmas lights—into a giant mountain of things. These things may have formerly seemed useful but now are just irregular shapes that they stack and climb as a means of apparent escape (from these same things?) through a lighted opening far above. The photography and video work of Hillerbrand+Magsamen, which often features their two children, is unsettling and unstable: is their home a place of comfort or alienation? Are their children authors or materials? All of the above?

Life-into-art has been an artistic strategy since the 1960s, but artists have generally made sure that their lives appear sufficiently glamorous (or conversely, gritty) before they turn the lens on themselves. The confessional aspect of Hillerbrand+Magsamen’s work lies in their very lack of lack. “Where did all that stuff come from?” we wonder (but secretly we know all too well). Hillerbrand+Magsamen expand the notion that art is made from what is at hand to include their house, children and entire culture.