Functional and vanilla, office supplies have their own aesthetic. Their purpose seems the opposite of art supplies. That’s reflected in the title of Lennon Michelle Wolcott Hernandez’s exhibition at Gallery 263, “All Work and No Play.”
Hernandez supports her art with office work. The stuff of her days is Post-It Notes and paper clips, Bic pens and pushpins. It’s also, now, the stuff of her art.
She received her master of fine arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in 2017. The work here is sharp but nascent. Despite its intricacy, it feels a little arts-and-crafty, a tic she would overcome by going bigger and deeper. She playfully inflects the white-bread materials from her desk with cultural colors, slyly trumpeting particularities of her own identity.
A candy-colored piñata collaged from Post-Its swings over a bar graph in “Hitting the Numbers” and spills paper clips in “Crack Open the Piñata (system).”
Pushpins with happy, sunny-hued heads make up designs on corkboards that recall indigenous textiles and modernist paintings. Both references, steeped in cultural legacies, seem miles from offices, in which systems are supposedly made for ease and utility, not reckoning with history.
Hernandez does the same thing, to a shaggier effect, with her Day-Glo Post-Its. “Swing, Graze, and a Near Miss” features concentric rectangles. Similar forms surrounded by the jagged graphics of comic-book fisticuffs explode in “POW!” She should crank up the tension between the purposefully benign blandness of her materials and the potentially fraught and juicy content.
It would be a challenge to scale up such painstakingly detailed work, but what an impact it would have. You can see the effect of such an expansion in “Waves of (Nothing But) Flowers,” an installation made of coffee filters filling a corner of the gallery. Hernandez has dyed, twisted, and scrunched the paper filters into roses and carnations. Aztecs used paper flowers to decorate altars; in Mexico, they are placed on graves to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
In “All Work and No Play,” Hernandez plants a liberating flag of individuality in dry bureaucratic ground. Next, she needs to take a spade to it and plant a garden.
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY
At Gallery 263, 263 Pearl St., Cambridge, through Nov. 2. www.gallery263.com