In December, just a few weeks before he moved out, Archie Scott Gobber let us visit his space at Studios Inc (née Review Studios). The space was a collision of finished white walls, thick wooden beams, and slapdash cinderblock barriers. While there were immediate hints of an artist’s studio, there were also suggestions of something else. Perhaps it was a mechanic’s shop, or the back room of a hardware store. The bright yellow cans of vintage-labeled lettering enamel, the stray and errant marks of vibrant paint, and the finished paintings that appeared as objects (rather than simply images) pointed the mind toward the notion that a technician, trained in the secret skills of the American sign, was nearby.

Those are vague allusions, but they don’t quite articulate the odd lattice of time and place. Like the architecture of the space, the facts collided: this is an old-fashioned sign-painter’s shop—and yet—this is a contemporary artist’s studio. Gobber’s finished works, imbued with the all the earnest polish and pride of the signs, newspapers, and billboards of the 20th Century, and outside of the gleaming white cubes in which they are usually shown take even longer to draw their punches than they otherwise might. Gobber, a native Missouran, evokes Midwestern tradition by keeping to himself when asked to pinpoint the meaning of work that already provides enough in the way of words.

In the buildup of a years-long practice, signs and ephemera from a world less aware of art were tacked alongside Gobber’s own works. A projector from another time, useful as ever, shared a table with a green cordless drill. This setting lulled me into a quiet comfort with objects and imagery that were familiar. These are old things. Unintentionally, it all served to produce a weighty installation of sorts. Because as the eyes settled in on the paintings, rife with their subtle ruses and shifts, the mental reflexes were allowed to finally kick. Suddenly the room was full—and the mind whipped—with objects about today.