Elliot Doughtie: Tomato
Experimental Gallery, Lower Level
Elliot Doughtie’s sculptures and installations transform industrial materials into metaphors for the human body and the experience of inhabiting one. Doughtie playfully manipulates materials like steel, epoxy, copper, plaster, and concrete, transforming the hard-edged materiality of these substances to evoke the soft vulnerability of the human form.
In Tomato, Doughtie has created a single installation, a grouping that suggests a Rube Goldberg-type machine, composed of parts drawn from cars, construction sites, and tool boxes. Pipes covered in epoxy are hard, but appear soft, even fleshy, evoking intestines or other organs. Mufflers, stacked to roughly human height, are a subtle reference to digestion. Crowbars are bent into curves, a new shape replacing their previous function.
By incorporating industrial materials into his work, Doughtie takes objects designed for specific functions and uses them for their formal qualities, prioritizing their aesthetic, rather than practical, potential. This approach to materials draws on the legacy of minimalist and post-minimalist artists like Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Eva Hesse. Doughtie’s work builds off of but also updates these influences, integrating humor and a direct tie to personal experience. By using materials in a way that transcends what the artist describes as their “socially normative expectations of function,” Doughtie’s work acts specifically as a metaphor for the bodies of people who are transgender, including the artist himself.
Doughtie’s material experimentation also plays with legibility, uncertainty, and ambiguity. Many of the objects Doughtie works with are partially, rather than fully, transformed. They are bent, covered, painted, and combined but remain semi-recognizable – especially to viewers who are familiar with their normal uses. Similarly, Doughtie incorporates word play and queer in-jokes through his titles and the objects he uses, creating additional layers of meaning that may be legible to some viewers but not others. The exhibition’s title Tomato, references that plant’s status as a fruit that is masquerading as something else. Throughout the installation, small metal leaves emerge in surprising places, suggesting tomatoes emerging from the ground and evoking another type of organic body.
Elliot Doughtie: Tomato takes place as part of MoCA Arlington’s SOLOS 23-24, a series of solo exhibitions by artists based in the Mid-Atlantic taking place at the Museum throughout 2023 and 2024. The exhibitions were selected from an open call by a jury that included artist Nekisha Durrett, Betsy Johnson, assistant curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Jova Lynne, director, Temple Contemporary, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University.
b. 1985, Dallas, TX
Lives and works in Baltimore, MD
Elliot Doughtie is a Baltimore-based artist originally from Dallas, TX. His drawings, sculptures, and installations engage in a desire to form close relationships between objects and the body in proximity to intimate or vulnerable situations. Doughtie received his BA from Tulane University and MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. His work has been exhibited throughout North America including L’OEil de Poisson (Quebec City, Quebec), Basketshop Galley (Cincinnati, OH), LangerOverDickie (Chicago, IL), Fjord Gallery (Philadelphia, PA), and the Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas, TX). He has been awarded a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and is a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant recipient.
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