In her first-ever solo show, Olivia Vigo delves into the deeply personal, oddly uncanny and often heartbreaking nature of storage spaces. “Information Rich” opens with a daybed in front of a wall-mounted TV. A pair of stools reside nearby. There’s a nefarious feeling within the otherwise domestic arrangement. Decorating the daybed is a jumble of patchwork letters in mismatched typefaces, à la a ransom note, spelling out a melancholic poem: “Riding writing along the fence line from the state line to the furthest state line / you say you’re fine you’re perfectly fine / the end is near so we continue to go / we write we ride until we’re no longer here.”
On the TV, Does Storage Have Reason? (all works 2021) documents Vigo’s recent visits to two storage units her family has used around the Bay Area. Footage cuts between a ransacked, abandoned building, which she surveys with her mother, and secure units at a commercial facility, which she goes through with her father. The film, revealing no one’s face, is punctuated by snippets of mostly off-camera conversation while shots pan over tightly packed rooms, sometimes lingering on objects: chairs, an oriental rug, photographs, framed artworks covered in shards of their own protective glass and much more. It’s not exactly the physical artifacts holding our attention, though—the memories attached to them drive the narrative. At one point, her mother’s voice cracks upon finding feminist political buttons that belonged to Vigo’s maternal grandmother. Later, she says, “Even though you’re told it’s just an object, it’s your whole life. It’s memories and everything.”
Most of the sculptures within “Information Rich” contain echos of these storage spaces and what they contain or contained: from the daybed, titled Maybe I’m too Emotional, that was inspired by Vigo’s recollection of one that was stolen from the dilapidated building; to the stools, Trade School 1 and 2, that, beginning as found objects, saw their cushions seats replaced by Vigo with ones she cast in solid iron, surfaces etched with patterns reflecting the heirloom lace she had salvaged from the same storage site; to the hanging sculpture Before we existed the woods were sacred, and then we came to dwell in these sacred wood, comprising a dilapidated-looking form, crafted out of raw sheep’s wool over a copper frame, echoing that of a wardrobe her mother owned, which also disappeared from the remote storage space.
A freestanding archway titled Information Rich is complemented with its negative, Information Poor, leaning against the wall in the flattened shape of the arch's opening, Vigo, who came of age idealizing archways as emblematic of affluent, stable homes sculpted both out of found metal filing cabinets; faint illustrations on some segments borrow from wallpaper designs by William Morris, an icon of the Arts and Crafts movement.
It’s rare that a body of work can successfully engage in both visual art and design without letting either ethos dictate the parameters of its meaning. Which is to say, nothing in “Information Rich” comes down to just aesthetics or function. That’s a lot like something in storage: not to be seen or imminently used—we just like the feeling of it being somewhere. These objects, permeated with ghosts of insignificant recollections and formative experiences that are Vigo’s alone, carry emotional weight that’s relatable as it is striking. And indeed, unforgettable. —Rachel Summer Small
Olivia Vigo, Shop stool 1 & 2 (pair), 2021. Found mechanic stool bases, raw cast iron 19 x 13 inches. Courtesy Larrie, New York.