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The Rat Race

Gunner Dongieux, Tom Hecht

June 24 - July 9

New York

Pop Gun presents ‘The Rat Race,’ a two-person exhibition featuring Gunner Dongieux and Tom Hecht. The exhibition unfolds the common idiom of the ‘Rat Race’ across a two-work dialectic: Tom Hecht’s SIYL, and Gunner Dongieux’s Stuart Little.


Hecht’s soft fabric sculpture, SIYL, inspired by a running track, offers a poignant allegory that delves beyond athleticism and formalist art; It delves into the demanding nature of life's journey, highlighting how navigating through life can be as strenuous as running on a race track. 


While an athlete on a track is acutely aware of their surroundings, life experiences are often more raw, messy, and difficult to track. SIYL, comprised of modular parts, symbolizes the incremental steps we take in pursuit of larger goals. It serves as a reminder that life is an amalgamation of interconnected experiences, each contributing to the construction of our personal narratives. By employing the accessible motif of a running track, Hecht invites viewers to reflect on the significance of each step, fostering a deeper understanding of the cumulative impact our actions have in shaping our lives.


Dongieux similarly responds to the idiomatic ‘rat race’ by questioning prevalent success models in the Lower East Side art scene. He employs the accessible motifs of Stuart Little and the Apple mouse Memoji to paint a portrait of his digital self. Stuart’s cool demeanor and nonchalant lean recalls a once popular meme: a Discord user fantasizes his Furry persona as a “chill low-key guy who does his own thing and doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks,” replete with wolf features and a six-pack. Dongieux elaborates upon this attitude in an accompanying artist book, embracing an attitude of DIY and blunt productivity in spite of scene-defined faux pas.


Engaging with his position as Pop Gun gallery director, as an artist who frequently shows his own work, Dongieux employs Hecht’s SIYL as part of the larger obvious pun of the exhibition, contextualizing his curation as an extension of his wider artistic practice. The gallery, represented by the brand-new bookshelf and gallerist desk, itself becomes folded into the exhibition, in front of his site specific vinyl installation, Pandora (Named after the exoticized alien planet in James Cameron’s film Avatar).


Like a tropical island postcard pinned up in an office cubicle, Dongieux conjures an image of a seemingly unattainable utopia. According to CNN, many Avatar audience members “sought out ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible.” Pairing the vinyl film still landscape with a bookshelf of Pop Gun artist books, Dongieux suggests similarities between the longings of a theatrical audience and the aspirations of emerging artists, caught along a schism between the real and virtual; caught in the rat race.

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