Dead machines and industrial detritus as seen through the art of Jason Gringler

Canadian artist Jason Gringler talks about using industrial refuse to create his hybrid sculptures.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Aug 10, 2022

Jason Gringler creates fascinating sculptures out of messy, decaying industrial equipment. His work is often layered, and built upon several mechanical parts, ruined pamphlets; their text all but faded, and voluminous quantities of cement and resin. Operating out of a disarmingly clean studio in Berlin, Germany, one would not expect a preoccupation with industrial aesthetics, yet there it is. Discussing the beginnings of his passion, Gringler tells STIR, “In the past, I relocated from Toronto to Brooklyn. The move was deliberate in terms of expanding my knowledge and practice. I took a two-day trip to New York to secure a studio. I rode the bus for 10 hours, arriving at Port Authority in Manhattan. That weekend, I rented a space within a small industrial complex. During those years, the language of my work developed from the utilitarian nature of securing and protecting American industrial architecture. Fear and safety became defining aesthetic interests for me. Encrusted bricks with decaying advertisements and rotten adhesives supplied my interest in mark-making. Barred windows were positioned as points of light - interior accessibility just removed. I took this information and slowly eliminated more traditional materials replacing them with acrylic glass, glue, silicone, steel and mirror.”

Photo Journal (6), 2021, plywood, layered acrylic glass, adhesives, spray enamel, photos, steel, hardware, Artist's archive| STIRworld
Photo Journal (6), 2021, plywood, layered acrylic glass, adhesives, spray enamel, photos, steel, hardware Image: Jason Gringler

The artist spent four years studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, in his native Canada. He explains that he came to art quite late, and primarily as a means to distract himself from the turmoil and confusion of being a young adult. “I suppose I can say that I learned about art mostly online. Once I moved to New York, my real education began, and my work evolved. Ten years later, I did the same when I moved to Berlin. I dislike most of the work I produce as I never get to where I imagine I would like to be. Perhaps this is the reason I continue.” Gringler’s honesty about how he perceives his own practice underlines a perspective many artists share: a dissatisfaction that drives them forever onward to create continuously. After all, satisfaction truly is the end of art.

Tool (1), 2021, angle grinder, epoxy resin, Jason Gringler| Artist's archive | Jason Gringler | STIRworld
Tool (1), 2021, angle grinder, epoxy resin Image: Jason Gringler

The artist's works will surely strike a chord with those who appreciate machinery and industrialised production, and so it comes as no surprise that Gringler's practice is well received in Berlin, a city known for its industrial spaces; both functional and desiccated. His pieces fit right in with the many dimly lit warehouses of the city, feeling like glimpses of an imagined, perhaps ancient industrial architecture, at once based on reality, and yet somehow alien. Take Tool (1) for example: It is an angle grinder entombed in epoxy resin, not unlike dinosaur bones found encased in amber. While the artefact itself is by no means large, Gringler's photograph of it makes it seem quite massive, such that it feels like the bones of some altogether titanic mechanical system. Or consider Steel/ Glass (48), which is a collage made up of steel, layered acrylic glass, vinyl and other elements of industrial production. It is difficult to say exactly what these were used for in their previous life, but they exist as a sort of amalgamation now: hinting at, yet never revealing more than what we are faced with. One piece of particular interest within the artist's oeuvre is eBay Sculpture (Extended iPhone 47 cm), which feels as though one is confronted by the corpse of a figuratively and literally dead phone. The hole in the centre evokes a brutal gunshot, with cracks on the phone's surface rippling outwards from the scene of the crime. This piece is quite fascinating, as it is perhaps one of the best examples of the autopsy-like quality of Gringler's practice: it is wholly mechanical and industrial in its construction, yes, but there is an unmistakable human-ness to the macabre nature of the piece.

Steel/Glass (48), 2021, steel, layered acrylic glass, sign vinyl, spray enamel, adhesives, plywood, hardware, paper collage, Jason Gringler | Artist's archive |Jason Gringler | STIRworld
Steel/Glass (48), 2021, steel, layered acrylic glass, sign vinyl, spray enamel, adhesives, plywood, hardware, paper collage Image: Jason Gringler

Exploring his materiality, Gringler tells STIR, “The materials I use, such as glass, acrylic and concrete, tend to be on the unforgiving side. Once concrete has cured, within reason, it cannot become malleable once again. Acrylic glass cannot be ‘unglued’, etc. I use these types of factors to my advantage. My mistakes have become one of the most exciting parts of producing art works, so much so that at times I attempt to set up situations leading to inevitable failure just so I can investigate what went “wrong”. Of course, many artists I know work in this way, but they likely articulate this type of investigation differently.”

eBay Sculpture (iPhone), 2019, iPhone, magnets, plumber's epoxy, Jason Gringler, eBay Sculpture | Jason Gringler| STIRworld
eBay Sculpture (iPhone), 2019, iPhone, magnets, plumber's epoxy Image: Jason Gringler

One of Gringler’s ongoing projects is his blog titled Work2day. Discussing this, he says, “Work2day is a project I began five years ago. At the time, there wasn’t much of a place online for the type of sculpture that interested me. The blog grew in popularity exponentially. It has predominantly been a pleasure project. The few times I considered monetising it, I realised there were too many compromises involved. It remains a pleasure project for the moment.” The Work2day blog extends Gingler’s preoccupation with industrial detritus, and combines it with imagery of urban, lonely corporate life, along with strange representations of the human form; some quite disturbing. It is, in many ways, a hybrid of hybrids. In the past, the artist has described this project as a “mini anthropological study”, yet it is debatable as to what of exactly. It receives submissions from a wide variety of artists and photographers, both professional and amateurs, and it was only after the blog hit 10,000 followers that Gringler attached his name to it.

Profile Picture, 2022, Image, Jason Gringler | Artist's archive | Jason Gringler | STIRworld
Artist Jason Gringler, 2022, Image Image: Courtesy of Jason Gringler

Having been born in Toronto, and moving first to New York and then to Berlin, Gringler has certainly had quite the journey, both physically and creatively. His pieces ae no different, having been shown in recent exhibitions at König Galerie in Berlin, Steve Turner in Los Angeles, Brand New Gallery in Milan and Parisian Laundry in Montreal among others. They carry a strange, disconcerting energy that captivates viewers, and as the artist continues producing, his work remains worth looking out for, as strange and intriguing industrial hybrids.

Studio video (amalgam), 2020; video was screened at Tick Tack (Antwerp) July/ August, 2020 Video: Jason Gringler

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