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If, as it seems, there’s a potential road movie inside every Jersey guy, then TREAD is Bill Graef’s. It’s all there: the blown rubber, the blown chances, the rear-view mirror nostalgia for a receding, retro America preserved in its souvenir self-depictions. Graef is a bricoleur and collector who alchemically refashions and recycles his archive of bric-a-brac into appealing, latter-day Pop objects full of good-natured critique. His primary beat is the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s—the span of his childhood and adolescence in Summit and the Jersey shore—and the cargo culture of the era. Like avatars and influences Warhol and Hamilton, Graef is a graphic designer and art director who worked in advertising, and brings similar skills and preoccupations to the table: an eye for significant trash, a craftsman elegance, and a stifled sentimentality resurfaced as irony. The roots of TREAD are a landscape series Graef hatched in 1993 with Panamericana, in which he assembled giant postcards of roadside America into a raucus, forty-foot long panoramic map of the U.S. overlaid with topographical symbols. These cards reappear in TREAD, recast in somber black rubber this time, as mournful truck tire fragments strewn on the floor, upon which the artist has also traced a travel map of distances and driving times between major American cities. Scale changes, overlay, and quotation are rife in his work, along with an absurd massing and serial mixing of contrasting contextual elements. The environment is one of his subjects, although one which he typically treats lightly and obliquely, as in his silkscreened forests of automobile air-freshener evergreens on canvas, unstretched and reconstituted as car upholstery for this exhibition. The centerpiece of TREAD is Getting There Is Half The Fun, a model car builder’s version of Godard’s Week End, in which the hellishness of traffic is embodied in a global helix of interchanges from which there is no exit or reprieve (much like the approach to the Lincoln Tunnel from the Jersey turnpike). -- Alan Michelson

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