“Items I Thought I Needed”

Have you ever been seized by the urge to just rid yourself of all your possessions? You may not actually do it, but there’s this desire to purge that’s a counterpoint to the urge to collect. In a recently opened show at the Haines gallery called The Relative Value of Things Nigel Poor examines these two competing desires. The work on display was created during a residency at the San Francisco Center for the Book, but reflects the ongoing examination of the idea of collecting. By collecting things that have no value (hair and lint) and keeping a record of all the things she has discarded for a number of years she prompts the viewer to examine their own choices about what they keep and discard.
Nigel Poor: 18 Years of Date Books
Nigel Poor, 18 Years of Date Books

The show consists of three twelve book sets, eight triptychs that combine text and image, and a wall of compositions made of either hair or lint set up salon style. All three sets of books are mounted on the wall in a way that there covers combine to form a single large compositions. Like the salon wall, one set of book covers is compositions done with lint and the second is done with hair. The final set of books displays the shared back covers that form a single large image called Someday I will be as Insignificant as a Swarm of Summer Insects. This piece is composed of the same tiny handwriting that appears in the triptychs.

One frustration I had with this, and pretty much any show of book art, is the inability to turn the pages*. In this case the books are mounted on the wall, the only hint we get about the interior is from the cell phone tour. It states that the interiors are much like the triptychs which combine two photos of discarded items with a fraction of the written list of discarded items. Which brings me to my second quibble, I wanted to see more. There are only eight triptychs to represent the entirety of years of discarded objects. I don’t know if it was a function of the space available (Poor’s work is in only a small section of the gallery), but I would be interested in seeing more of this facet of the project and, even if I can’t turn the pages, at least one spread of a books interior.

Nigel Poor: S'Rilla #2
Nigel Poor, S’Rilla #2

That said, I appreciate the way in which Poor’s work is often a combination of the intensely personal and the participatory. For this work, in addition to keeping track of everything she has discarded, she is inviting people to contribute their own stories and images of discarded items at www.nigelpoor-relativevalue.com. The lint and hair were also gathered from other people, putting yet another strange spin on the idea of collecting.

I knew going in that, both visually and conceptually, the work would be right up my alley and my minor quibbles with the set up of the show did nothing to change that. I’m looking forward to see how this project evolves and what will catch Poor’s collector’s curiosity next.

The show runs through June 13 with an opening Saturday, May 2 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm.

*Correction:
I went to the opening this afternoon and maybe I missed it the first time, but there were copies of the book available at the front desk that you could look through upon request.

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