Margaret Curtis: This, too. is on view in the Street Gallery through November 9, 2024

Jason Metcalf: Abracadabra

Sep 7, 2021 – Dec 21, 2013

Knock on wood. Grab the lucky penny. Don’t cross the black cat’s path. Beware of the number 13. Drive a rusty nail through a lime to avoid the evil eye.

Superstition is one of the most uniting forces across cultures. Whether conscious or unconscious, with zeal, skepticism, or denial; our behaviors, daily rhythms, architecture, and design are determined by superstitions both arcane and contemporary.

Artist Jason Metcalf has painstakingly researched, re-enacted and refreshed languages of superstition long forgotten from day-to-day vernacular. Entities, obsessions, legends and lore from various local cultures — with provenance in places as far as Haiti and as near as the Sanpete Valley — provide the sculptural and performative language displayed in his solo exhibition.

Metcalf gives us objects that stand between the mind’s eye and lore, which playfully prod the tales of old wives or the Doubting Thomas. The artist states, “When an individual knowingly recreates or re-enacts a particular legend or myth as a kind of forgery, such singularities effectively become real through their physicalization. The subsequent belief by a third party that these actions are the real-life manifestation furthermore becomes proof of the myth or legend’s reality.”

Many of the artworks on view are sourced from verbal descriptions passed down from generations as if our folkloric sayings were actually instructions for how to make conceptual sculpture. This body of research generates its own sculptural language referencing art movements ranging from Dada and the readymade’s innovator Marcel Duchamp. Considering them as purely sculptural exercises the absurdity of the forms brings to mind the famous quote that sums up Surrealism as being “the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.”

In his process, Jason Metcalf’s work not only reflects an existing culture of belief, but also reinforces those legends for UMOCA visitors. Nevertheless, Metcalf refers to his works as “forgeries” because they are not born from the original intent or belief, and instead function as visual surrogates or documentation. The objects and the aura they project beg the questions of inherent occult properties. Is it possible to realize an archive of superstition without fearing its total magic?