Basement Romance
Feb 10–Mar 19, 2023

Christopher Aque
Jason Benson
Sylvie Hayes-Wallace
Y. Malik Jalal
Antonio López
Mario Melis
Gitte Maria Möller
geetha thurairajah

I've never met anyone who's left a comment on anything. It's just demons who live in basements – Robert Pattinson

The first Pittsburgh Potties (freestanding basement toilets, as they’ve been termed in the city) were installed in homes as a pre-war prerequisite, so that mill workers and miners could clean up before entering the main part of the house. Local lore has it that toilets close to the ground would also prevent a sewage overflow. “As sewage backups tend to flood the lowest fixture in a residence,” Wikipedia says, “a Pittsburgh toilet would be the fix […].”

Intertwined with desire and drive, various needs lie at the basement stairs, where private and public life intersect. Basement Romance features eight artists whose work, taken together, pillage the space of psychological sewage with the basement as backdrop–its hidden impulses and escape routes, social constructs and innermost fears. It’s a metaphor, or cave, for projection and the cave itself, or a room that is and isn’t a room–containing the presence of something non-representable for processing.

These artists’ works, collectively, put primacy on how different infrastructures shape their inner worlds, and vice versa: an underground tunnel in the system through cracks of intimacy and, perhaps, irony, or the imaginary: heartbreak in a game of chess; cosplay in works of art history featuring tornadoes; a fragment of a map of one’s own mind; burns and cavities in a suburban garden. Fixed it. The basement here is a place of grieving and lamentation, but also, one of reprieve, healing and regrowth. As the toilets have overflown, or the water heater leaks, the underground entrapment’s puddles drip drop through the drain, back into the ground. A cleansing and a threat.

All photos by Sean Eaton unless noted otherwise.

1) Christopher Aque, Summer (detail), 2018. Image courtesy of the artist. 2) Mario Melis, is this heaven, 2022. Photo by ROMANCE. 3) Christopher Aque and Mario Melis, installation view, 2023. 4) Y. Malik Jalal, Mario Melis, Jason Benson, Gitte Maria Möller, installation view, 2023. 5) Sylvie Hayes-Wallace, Ophelia, 2023. 6) Sylvie Hayes-Wallace and Gitte Maria Möller, installation view, 2023. 7) Gitte Maria Möller, The 3rd day, 2022. 8) Gitte Maria Möller, Garden of Love (Inferno), 2022. 9) Gitte Maria Möller, installation view, 2023. 10) Y. Malik Jalal, Players Circle (detail), 2023. 11) Mario Melis, Y. Malik Jalal, Antonio López, Jason Benson, installation view, 2023. 12) Antonio López, Not yet titled, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist. 13) geetha thurairajah, Jason Benson, Mario Melis, installation view, 2023. 14) Gitte Maria Möller, Ending, 2022. 15) Mario Melis, born work die, 2022. 16) geetha thurairajah, Sinking World (detail), 2022. Image courtesy of the artist. 17) geetha thurairajah and Mario Melis, installation view, 2023. 18) geetha thurairajah, Untitled works, 2020, installation view, 2023. 19) Mario Melis, Vivian body armors, 2022, installation view, 2023. 20) Jason Benson, Familiars (detail), 2022. 21) Jason Benson, 3 beggars (basement ed.), 2022, installation view, 2023. 22) Jason Benson, installation view, 2023. 23) Antonio López and Mario Melis, installation view, 2023.