Josh Callaghan: Family Tree

Night Gallery is thrilled to present Family Tree, an exhibition of new work by Josh Callaghan. This is the artist’s second solo show at the gallery.

Josh Callaghan’s sculptures uncover the relations between commodity and culture, creating humanistic forms out of consumer products. For Callaghan, quotidian objects are a kind of societal gauge; their forms are reflections of our common values and therefore, ourselves. This exhibition brings these interests to a markedly more monumental scale. Through the stylized landscape of Family Tree, Callaghan conducts a micro-survey of his shared life, and in turn suggests something essential about human behavior, social structures, and the passage of time.

The titular sculpture, Family Tree, is a towering aluminum tree with bare and brittle branches, composed of photography tripods sourced and repurposed by the artist. Callaghan was initially drawn to the interlocking tubes as a sleek engineering system, particularly in Italian-made Manfrotto tripods. Bent by Callaghan, the manufactured tubing takes on a spontaneous quality, its curvatures echoing the artist’s touch. Here, the image making tool is made into the image, deconstructed and bolted together into an organic, telescopic form.

As the forest of tripod “trees” expands into open space, Keepsake—a bale of recycled aluminum material weighing 1,684 pounds—is all about compression. Composed at a scrapyard near Night Gallery, Keepsake is a conglomeration of consumer detritus, caught midstream in its cycle of use and preserved. Tesla body panels, a garden shed, patio furniture, and a baseball bat are included in Keepsake’s lengthy material list. Mass consumption provides the artist with unlimited materials to restore from perceived obsolescence—the readymade acting as a structuralist index of the American dream.

Elsewhere, a wheelless station wagon is reimagined as Family Car. This vehicle has been deprived of four essential components and placed on log rollers, reminiscent of methods used by ancient societies to move heavy objects. The car was originally bought by Callaghan’s wife and gallery owner Davida Nemeroff in 2011—the earliest days of Night Gallery—and has since moved with the couple through professional advancements, marriage, and the birth of two children. Family Car is now a living relic, encapsulating the couple’s interwoven projects: family and gallery, art and life. To encounter a utilitarian object so intimately tied to daily experience, its functionality removed, one perceives that they are peering into a private life. The entire exhibition gains a voyeuristic edge as Callaghan toggles between the personal and the collective, the natural and the technic, the ancient and the contemporary.

Tree rings are a recurring motif in Family Tree. Aside from signaling a tree’s age and the progression of linear time, these internal orbits are also a reminder of mortality; injury, if not death, is required to learn a tree’s history. As Callaghan draws out parallels between art making, family building, and organic growth, the exhibition evokes the creative and destructive capacities of human societies and the ultimate impermanence of all things, sentient and inanimate.