Erin Calla Watson
In a two-bedroom apartment of a 1920s building in Franklin Hills, Los Angeles, where two single women live, light pours in through the casement windowpanes. There is a white canvas couch and a white coffee table, and sconces in the corners of the living room producing a warm glow. The kitchen has classic LA architectural features, like an arched doorway and a forest-green tiled floor. The apartment is the site of Larder gallery, and its inaugural exhibition, “KYLE” by Erin Calla Watson. For this body of work the artist looks into living spaces that look nothing like this, lived in by people quite different from her.
For “KYLE,” Watson found images on a subreddit where men share images of their domestic spaces for “inspo.” She then had the images 3D-rendered, added her own light and shadow, and then had them direct-to-substrate printed on aluminum. The result is surreal yet mundane: objects feel especially generic, with the sentimental or intimate quality that typically fills a living space removed. There’s a blankness that dominates each image: empty bowls, empty boxes, a white frame with nothing in it, a beige carpet. Dull and flat, the prints have the approximate size and shape of the TV screens that appear within them. Windows and doors frame an opaque blackness, like a dead monitor, which is the outside world.
Each of Watson’s interventions position a light source. In KYLE (Airfryer), a spotlight on one corner of the room casts the shadow of a cowboy over what resemble bags of trash and empty cereal bowls. Indulging her subjects’ fantasy spaces, Watson projects imagined ideals of masculinity, cowboys, strippers, anime girls onto their actual domestic environments. These fantasies fill the chat rooms and message boards where Watson’s source images circulate, suggesting that, for these men, the digital realm might be more real than the “dark” outside world.
Watson’s gaze is demeaning yet sympathetic towards the pathos of these lonely men who lack a companion to direct their interior design. She positions herself as that imagined companion, lighting the space, indulging and re-rendering the spaces. Yet she’s aware of her absence, making work from the perspective of the objectified, engaging with the culture of men that is misogynistic and cruel online. —Gracie Hadland
Erin Calla Watson, KYLE (USPS), 2022. Direct-to-substrate print on aluminium, 26 x 35 inches. All images by Evan Walsh, Courtesy of the artist and Larder, LA