Acrylic, plastic, resin, glass, fabric, denim, thumbtack, red lights, plastic bugs, hot glue, door knob, clock hands, and rocks sounds less like a description of materials/techniques applied on a painting and more like a list of things found in a forgotten storage. And with storages often being a memory treasure chests, there is actually a great conceptual analogy between the technicality of Trey Abdella’s work and the subject of his current solo show, In The Neighborhood.

Back at T293 in Rome, Italy, for his second solo presentation, the artist we’ve featured in Winter 2021 issue, is continuing reimagining his childhood and past life experiences through works that blur the line between painting and sculpture. Informed by his love and appreciation for TV culture and movies, these visuals are wrapped up in cinematic format which is then exaggerated with the unique blend of different techniques and materials used. Such formatting is fully employed in Overstretched, 2021, which at whooping 44 × 144 inches, accentuates the image of a hardworking counterperson catching fire in the climax of her work. While there is humor present at many layers of Abdella’s work, it’s worth mentioning that this particular piece brings a whole new light to the term “ballpoint pen on linen”. Simultaneously, the details such as the fence carving in Next Door Neighbors, 2021, shows the artist’s personal connection with the scenes depicted and their connection with his present-day life.

The view of the world through the lens instead of the natural way of seeing things is going way past classical camera obscura effect and is boldly entering the 3D sphere. With the actual objects being often in foreground, the background is often depicted blurred and blended with the use of air brush. Such approach to construction of the image can be noticed in It’s Getting Late, 2021, in which a functional watch is the centerpiece of the work while the crowd of protagonists behind is somewhat of a background, serving as a distraction from the eerie pink storm which is brewing in the distance. Similarly, in Bootleg, 2021, a retro VHS camera is the focus of the piece while the cinema goers and the movie on the screen are merely a visual white noise around it. The scenes Abdella picked for this series of works are highly familiar and evocative for everyone that has lived through the turn of a century. The nostalgia is accentuated by the 50s or 60s elements, evoking the times of the socially conservative and highly materialistic country, only to slam such a notion to the ground with some 90s weirdness. The most obvious of such efforts is Front Row Seats, 2021, in which retro-looking, Chanel glasses-wearing blonde gets her face smashed in by the goth platform boot. Caricaturing his childhood experiences through a series of overplayed snapshots, Abdella is revealing the frenzy of coming of age while poking at the fabricated melancholy of US-centric popular culture and having fun exploring the technical possibilities and limitations of his work. —Sasha Bogojev

Trey Abdella, in the Neighborhood, exhibition view at T293, Rome, 8 May – 11 June 2021, photos by Daniele Molajoli