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studio visits/interviews

Beer pong’s aftermath: Love Explosion at Fleisher-Ollman

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May 14, 2008   ·   43 Comments

Post by Jennifer Zarro

Alex Da Corte
Installation shot of Alex Da Corte and Jack Sloss’s Love Explosion at Fleisher-Ollman Gallery.

The party is over and everyone must go. There’s a morning-after feeling to the Jack Sloss and Alex Da Corte show on view at the Fleisher Ollman Gallery. Piled-up presents are partially opened, colored globe lights on the floor wear happy and sad faces – they’re reminiscent of deflating balloons on the day after a party.

Alex Da Corte
Da Corte’s Flag, drinking game and head shots.

Glitter beer
detail, Glittery beer pong

A folding table set up for a drinking game holds plastic cups filled not with beer but liquid glitter. Jack Sloss’s photo collages of Olde English 800 advertisements hang nearby. And a new American flag by Da Corte signals a party atmosphere with its salmon-pink color and its fringe, the likes of which a Supreme might have worn on stage.  But the flag can also be read as tattered, weathered, and anarchistic; it has lacy holes in it, and it droops on its flag pole. 

There are other reminders of not so happy things here too that tinge the party atmosphere with regret and anxiety.  Sloss’s Love Explosion, Cranial Sections with Gunshot Wounds, are small bronze casts of gun shot holes. It’s the most obvious reminder of violence here.

Alex Da Corte, Jack Sloss
Jack Sloss’s Love Explosion (Cranial Sections with Gunshot Wounds) with Da Corte’s “Sign” in the backround

Jack Sloss
detail of Sloss’s Cranial Sections

Da Corte’s black snake (Accessory, Gothic) (not shown) twirls in a virtine nearby, another reference to the evil in the garden. Looking closely at the snake, viewers can see their own reflection in the mirrored base and may have to come to terms with their desires for this or other sparkly objects, especially considering that what we’re looking at is a rattle snake, and rattle snakes can kill.

Photo by Jennifer Zarro
Photo by Jennifer Zarro. Glitter and advertising go together here.

Advertisements have a strong presence in the exhibition. Da Corte’s Screen is an almost familiar billboard, but the words and pictures are jumbled up and confusing; what are we supposed to want? His Picture Texts are sandwich boards with just the floating heads of young, good-looking men seemingly taken from fashion ads. Presented in this familiar advertising format, they become even more confusing – are these heads trying to sell us something, or to say that advertising is really just empty and meaningless?

after party and the giving tree.jpg
Photo by Jennifer Zarro.

There’s so much that’s glossy and sparkly in this show, so much surface beauty and shine. But there are also reminders of devastation. Da Corte’s Giving Tree is a work that allows visitors to open a present, mostly all filled with Da Corte’s own clothes, and then hang the piece of clothing on the rack near a mannequin. There are few things more fun than telling your three-year old that it’s OK to tear up works of art in a gallery. But while my son sat opening presents from the Giving Tree, Sloss’s Entanglement video played behind us showing the wrapped-up bodies of dead children somewhere in the Middle East. Ugh.

Photo by Jennifer Zarro
The writer’s son, Asher, opening presents in Da Corte’s installation at Fleisher-Ollman Gallery.

We were lucky to be there on a day when Da Corte was in the gallery. He said he goes in regularly to change the sign near the entrance to the show.

Alex Da Corte
Da Corte found the sign (on the floor).  He changes the message periodically.

On my first visit the sign read, “Everyone Must Go.” It was fitting for “the party’s over” vibe. On this day, the sign read, “The end is not the end,” and that seemed fitting, too. The artist noted that the words on the sign may have to do with salvation, and that sometimes the little things we continue to do everyday – raise the American flag, turn on the lights and the TV, give presents – we do in spite of (maybe because of?) all the bad things that happen.

P.S. – A big congratulations to Da Corte who will be going to Yale in the fall to pursue an MFA! And, Fleisher Ollman Gallery has extended the Love Explosion exhibition until May 24.

–Independent art historian Jennifer Zarro, earned her PhD from Rutgers last spring. Her most recent piece for artblog was on When Photography and Printmaking Collide at the Free Library. See her Q&A with Alex Da Corte in Art Matters.

[for more on Da Corte, read artblog correspondent Annette Monnier’s interview with the artist.

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43 Responses to “Beer pong’s aftermath: Love Explosion at Fleisher-Ollman”

  1. Heart As Arena says:

    Best Artblog Header EVER! And what great news about Alex Da Corte.

  2. roberta says:

    I’ve never played beer pong but I heard about it from my kids… Alex is the second student from UArts to go to Yale recently. The other is Eoin Burke. Both make interesting work.

  3. Martin says:

    this looks like the nate lowman and dan colen show, but even lamer.

    http://anaba.blogspot.com/2008/04/dan-colen-and-nate-lowman.html

    happy face balloons on floor, clothes on racks, flannel shirts, scattered junk and leaning hunks, everything must go = clo$ing down sale.

    what happened to fleisher/ollman…

  4. Anonymous says:

    when is fleisher/ollman going to stop showing the same ol’ hipster art? zzzzzzzzz

  5. Paul Pincus says:

    Alex Da Corte is on his way to becoming a superstar. I loved the show…it’s excellent and fun…a perfect combination ; )

    I felt kind of a rush at Fleisher-Ollman while looking at Da Corte’s work…the same feeling I had years ago when I first saw Ryan McGinness’s work. It’s clear this artist is very sophisticated. Congratulations to Fleisher-Ollman on Love Explosion!

    PS negative, chronically-tense people like Martin @ 11:34 PM, and especially anonymous @ 12:26 AM should get together and start some sort of self-help group for the tedious and dull.

    Cheers : )

  6. ben says:

    I think its a very good show, exquisitely executed. However, I am glad to hear that Alex is going to grad school. I think many of the underlying ideas are very similar to many seminal works. Ex “party time” Hurst. Although, the aesthetic of this show is almost all de Corte. I do agree with Paul Pincus, that it looks as though he’s heading towards possible stardom, albeit his staying power could be questionable.

  7. Martin Bockmann says:

    I loved the show.

  8. cake. says:

    looooove it.

  9. Seb. says:

    i’m with paul, ben, martin b., and cake. on this show at f/o. it’s outstanding!

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is kind of a shallow review. If you are going to analyze a show, please look further into things and draw connections between the themes and pieces. Give us more analysis than we can get by looking at snapshots: topical aesthetic descriptions and simple visual connections. The artblog is great for getting personal thoughts and reactions from the personalities who write for it, not mundane overviews.

  11. William says:

    It’s wonderful to see so much constructive debate about the show and about the review. Happy that people love the show, happy that people hate the show: any strongly felt feeling is a great result for the gallery’s program. I do feel compelled to say a few things.

    Martin’s indignance is hard to swallow, I think. Feel free to slag off me, Alex or Jack all day, for we are young brother working to find the answers through positive, constructive production, but the gallery? Fleisher/Ollman Gallery is still doing what it’s been doing for the past 55 years – showing work that expands people’s minds and expand the parameters of how art can be useful to our current existence. Nothing has changed. I wonder how Martin or the anonymous ‘hipster’-thrower felt about ‘2000 Years of Sculpture’ two months ago. I wonder what they’ll have to say about the James Castle show the gallery will be mounting in October. I wonder what he would say if he was offered a show at the gallery (yes please, I suspect).

    My main question: why so bitter? And oh… did you even see the show? I couldn’t find your name in the book.

    Peace and love,

    WP

  12. roberta says:

    Hey, great back and forth on this show. It’s a hard show. As much as I liked some of it I disliked some even more. In a way both artists are about that, provoking dislike and like — driving you towards the art and away from it at the same time. I’m still digesting.

    It’s a great show for Fleisher-Ollman which has been offering a program focused on young artists over the last couple years. What other commercial gallery in Philadelphia is mounting shows that feel like they could be in an alternative space or even the ICA? It’s pretty risky but it’s made the gallery a taste-making leader.

    As for a shallow review, anonymous? Maybe you’d like to give it a try putting your name to a post. It’s not easy to be fair, thoughtful, newsy and opinionated all the time, and some work, like this, requires some distance to digest and write about. Like I said, I’m still digesting and I think others are too.

  13. Martin says:

    jeez… “negative, chronically tense”, my “indignance is hard to swallow”, and “why so bitter?”… kinda wish i hadn’t bothered to say anything. somebody has a pretty supportive e-mail network.

    william – i would say yes to james castle, and of course yes to a show. wow, you really got me. what a zinger.

    i guess you are somebody affiliated with the gallery? okay, i get the answer to my question “what happened to fleisher/ollman”… their must have been some programming and staff changes.

    no, i didn’t see the show, i was reacting to the photos, how weirdly similar this show is to the colen/lowman show (which i saw), how commonplace and uninspired this stuff is.

    anyways, sorry, i don’t really feel like fighting with every cool kid in philadelphia. i’m over and out. see ya.

  14. Randall Sellers says:

    A semi-contentious dialogue about art in Phila occurs too seldom to pass up!

    I have no grievance with Alex and Jack’s show. As a friend and fan of both, I know them to be serious about their work. I haven’t seen the show (out of town) but the photos look great. Respect for the gallery as well.

    No, if anything in the blog or comments gives this writer pause and reason to chime in, it is the news of Alex’s acceptance to Yale.

    My first instinct is, of course, to hug and congratulate him– Yale’s great, my grandfather studied Chinese there, and all that. My second instinct is to say: Alex, BEWARE!

    Why? If the CIA’s quiet campaign to elevate abstract expressionism as an antidote to the rise of narrative, left-leaning, “dangerous” art of the 1930s hobbled and marginalized art (by which time cinema had already inherited the visual-narrative mantle), Yale and the late hyper-academization of the art world have struck a death knell.

    These schools do indeed produce superstars and pricey masterpieces. So did the academies of 19th century France (cue the sound of leaves blowing around any old forgotten bronze behemoth).

    The rigours and constraints of an artstar’s court life allow that he or she make some beautiful and sometimes shocking work. But gentle homogenizing forces, tacit agreements to uphold status quo, become part of the bargain, part of the tide and current.

    The “art world” is, at its worst, an academicized playpen for manques and idle uppers who ought to be working the mines now and then; do them good. They put a strain on the talent with their gatekeeping. I mean, what serious artist wants to play the junior high cafetia seating game into his or her 40s and 50s?

    But when the lavishments of academies and fast-track stardom wane; when the hype, credentials, accolades, parties, fads, and dust all settle, what ARTIFACTS remain? Who made them?

    Picasso, remember, left Paris. So did the Impressionists, in droves. Kubrick left Hollywood. Cormac McCarthy hides out in Santa Fe. These guys undertood that calcified academies and social hothouses do not produce good art. Only artists do.

    So I say to Alex, congrats and good luck at Yale. But remember what academies were in the 19th century, and what they are today: overdue to be razed. In the end, it’s all you baby!

  15. ericgelber says:

    ‘martin’ gave us specific reasons why he found this show unoriginal and weak. Installation art has been a genre since the 1960s, over forty years now, and there is good and bad installation art. The installation artist has just as much responsibility as the artist who paints or sculpts to do something different from all the installation artists who came before him/her or to try and convince us that they stole ideas for a valid reason. Based on the photographic evidence presented by ‘martin’ this clearly was not done in this case. Just because it is installation art doesn’t mean it is new and experimental and original. This stuff has been around for quite some time now. Galleries that try and sell themselves as cutting edge, etc., have tough critics out there, because people like ‘martin’ know their art history and have seen a lot of art inside and outside of the gallery systems in more than one state. Taking cheap pot shots at critics does nothing but validate their criticism.

  16. Anonymous says:

    uh oh, you’ve gone and upset martin’s girl friend, don’t you know critic’s cant take criticism. I mean what would the world be without palm readers, back seat drivers and art critics?

    “this looks like the nate lowman and dan colen show, but even lamer.” = “Taking cheap pot shots at critics does nothing but validate their criticism.” switch out critic for artist

  17. ericgelber says:

    Anon you have the integrity and stature of a teenager making prank calls when their mom and dad are away on vacation. It would be too easy to tell you off anonymously. Reveal who you really are and then maybe I will treat you like a human being who is worth responding to. I will leave the creatively bankrupt ad hominem attacks to spineless and cowering _ _ _ _ _ like you.

  18. ericgelber says:

    p.s.

    ‘martin’ produced photographic evidence to back up his comment. You forgot to say anything about that.

    Attention all future anonymous attackers, please see my previous comment (2:24 AM).

    With regards to your ‘girlfriend’ comment. I remember kids using that tactic on the playground when I was in first grade. Remember the days when calling someone ‘gay’ was derogatory? I guess some people never make it past that developmental stage. I pity you. I never met ‘martin’ in person but I admire his blog and the way he champions artists who get absolutely no press coverage. You are targeting the wrong person a–hole.

  19. ben says:

    William,

    I understand your frustration with some of the posters on this blog. However, making comments like ‘why so bitter’ and ‘I wonder what he would say if he was offered a show at the gallery (yes please, I suspect)’ is in very poor taste. I would hope that as a leading gallerist in this city that you would show a little more leadership and tact.

  20. Alissa H. says:

    anonymous said

    “uh oh, you’ve gone and upset martin’s girl friend, don’t you know critic’s cant take criticism. I mean what would the world be without palm readers, back seat drivers and art critics?”

    LOL! So True!

    eric gelber said

    “You are targeting the wrong person a–hole.”

    mr. gelber, that is so offensive to me as a reader of artblog!!!!! certainly you can disagree without using such language!!!!! after reading all the back and forth regarding this post it turns out that mr. martin did not even bother to see the show before he weighed in!?!?!…maybe i’m naive, but that seems very, very strange to me. it gives the impression that he has an agenda.

  21. ericgelber says:

    I am glad a gallery owner/worker, actually spoke their mind in a public setting. The sour grapes argument is the easiest to put forward because no evidence is required to support it and it helps maintain the basic prinicples of the art gallery. (see Brian O’Doherty quote below)

    “In the classic era of polarized artist and audience, the gallery space maintained its staus quo by muffling its contradictions in the prescribed socio-esthetic imperatives. For many of us, the gallery still gives off negative vibrations when we wander in. Esthetics are turned into a kind of social elitism – the gallery space is exclusive. Isolated in plots of space, what is on display looks a bit like valuable scarce goods, jewelry, or silver: esthetics are turned into commerce – the gallery space is expensive. What it contains is, without initiation, well-nigh incomprehensible – art is difficult. Exclusive audience, rare objects difficult to comprehend – here we have a social, financial, and intellectual snobbery which models (and at its worst parodies) our system of limited production, our modes of assigning value, our social habits at large. Never was a space, designed to accomodate the prejudices and enhance the self-image of the upper middle classes, so efficiently codified.”

  22. ericgelber says:

    Shhhhh…Alissa H., occasionally mommy and daddy use bad language. You should never use these words because they are bad.

  23. Alissa H. says:

    Dear Mr. Eric Gelber:

    With all due respect, what has caused such anger? Why are you cursing and attacking everyone?

    I can think of only two reasons for such frustration. (I can’t help you with the first – try e-harmony or match.com for that – but regarding the second, please, please, stay on your medication).

    Maybe we can all agree that one should not review a show one has not seen!? That, at least to me, seems INDISPUTABLE. I suspect you’ll feel the need to respond to this at least three times…that’s what the meds are for.

    Alissa H.

  24. ericgelber says:

    Criticizing someone for having an opinion about installation art even though they didn’t see it in person is very weak. The entire history of installation art, and books on such artists as Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy, Felix Gonzalez Torres, etc., wouldn’t have been written if the writers didn’t have documentary evidence, such as photographs, available to them. Did gallerists who represent these artists take pot-shots at the authors of these books because they didn’t see the artworks live? I don’t think so.

  25. ericgelber says:

    Alissa Alissa Alissa…

    You applauded like a demented seal this comment:

    uh oh, you’ve gone and upset martin’s girl friend, don’t you know critic’s cant take criticism. I mean what would the world be without palm readers, back seat drivers and art critics?

    If you can’t understand why I would fire back then you are truly hopeless. Follow the flow of the comments and actually take note of the order of events before you make your sophmoric judgements. I won’t even go into what I suspect your sad little personal life is like.

  26. Anonymous says:

    EG is on a hypocritcal tirade while standing on a virtual pedestal of faux maturity. Anti ad hominim attacks while using them? Only reinforcing the critics can dish but not take comment.

    ps. i did not state boyfriend as i am no gay hater. It was a mere trope; which you have only reinforced with your wildly passionate display of protective affection.

    Try not to act above it, just as you steep down to it.

  27. ericgelber says:

    This will be my last comment on this thread. Anon read my comment made at 2:24 AM again.

    No one has addressed any of the specific points I made. A few of you seem bothered by the fact that I didn’t allow myself to be trampled on by an anonymous schmuck.

    WP you should resign. You are a disgrace to the profession.

  28. Anonymous says:

    EG read my comment at 12: 21 again

  29. Anonymous says:

    oh and as for your three mundane points:

    1. make better/newer installation art
    is that really a point

    2. Judge install art with little jpegs is valid.
    yeah i saw pictures of France and i can make an intellegent judgment about the whole country now.

    3.elitist art system is to uphold some higher expectations.
    your a virtual art critic calling people names.

  30. Gregor Crowley says:

    Congrats to Alex and Jack on an amazing show!

  31. K. Pritchard says:

    I love Alex Da Corte’s rattle snake and the wicked photo collages of Olde English 800 ads by Jack Sloss!

    Swoon!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Terribly derivative and I imagine the artist is wishing nobody saw dan colen/ nate lowman show right about now.

  33. libby says:

    Ah, dearest readers, we loved that art could inspire such a tempest, but were appalled at all the name-calling. I was hoping that we’d end on gregor crowley’s high note, but alas, you couldn’t let it rest!!!

    Also thanks to Randall for an outstanding word to the wise.

    As for so many others, we are sending the following of you to the time-out chair:

    –everyone named anonymous. From now on, you must use a nom d’internet so that we can keep score. At this point, I have no idea which anonymous comment belongs to which anonymous anonymous. So please become any-nymous.

    –eric gelber. You are in the time-out chair for bringing the discussion to its lowest point. Personal attacks are a no-no, or in your case, a no-no-no-no. Your comments were sooo inappropriate, they diverted the discussion to you. You will stay in the corner double time for this. And cease and desist at once.

    Thanks to all the peacemakers who tried to moderate while we were out having fun. So please, feel free to disagree with one another but not another cuss word or insult!

  34. roberta says:

    I’ll second that! roberta the playground monitor 2

  35. libby and roberta says:

    Hi everyone, we got a note from someone who said someone other than he used his name to make comments on this post. At his request we removed the comments.

  36. zipthwung says:

    im sorry Im late to the party.

    Did you know that I made an intallation piece back in the nineties before I even knew kady Noland let alone anyone mentioned here I think. Its funny how peopel come up with ideas before anyone else and then someone cvomes up with the same idea but they never even SAW what you did! LOL!!!!!!!!!

    Thats why you take pictures. I didnt take very good pictures so I dont show them. I could make it all again though!!!!!

    Give me a show!!!! It would be about war and stuff and It would have a pinyatta (I know its been done better) and it would aslso have a fort, which is great.

    Well I hope it would be a group show because I know its like totally hard to keep programming everyone into the mix, and you have to keep standards up so why not call it a project and then no one has to say that show sucks because its jsut a project.

    ok. Whoever made this show is young, had no idea what they were up against and the metaphors are a bit obvious and lacking in refinement that years of study would and will bring. Good luck!!!!

    And F#$%% em if they cant take a joke, because jokes are awesome.

    And further, I think some of the commenters here are joking, but I cant tell. Its the interweb.

    I dont like the baloons. This show insulted my intelligence. I dont like people making light of a very serious enterprise. You think you can just walk in and make fine art without knowing the cannon? You think you know? Well you dont. No one knows. And thats why you should just stop.

  37. zipthwung says:

    dan colen nate lowman, they are so young, havent they ever heard of scatter art? Kurt Schwitters? cady Noland? Gallager? Its like the avant guard is a dull rusty repetitive butterknife. Why bother?

  38. ericgelber says:

    : ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): ): )

    PEACE AND LOVE PHILLY

  39. Rebecca says:

    I enjoyed the broken optimism of heaven being a place on earth.

    Also, the attractive young men with confetti exploding from their heads triggered a very strong personal memory of reoccurring dreams from my childhood, which I’m pretty sure were about desire, obstacles, rewards and fear even as a little girl(an ongoing personal theme).

    I feel like a lot of this work was frantically created with blind abandon, something that I admire in other people’s work habits (and ability to love… a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately as I become more and more and more cautious in my work/love habits).

  40. zs says:

    Randall! I am right there with you! I am hoping the fabulous Mr.Da Corte will glitter and impale the skulls of the Skull and Bones society… and perhaps draw attention to the double entendre of the name “bonesmen.”

  41. James Rosenthal says:

    I couldn’t resist being number 45! Seriously, I hesitate to throw in my two cents but isn’t anybody concerned about the lack of consensus concerning contemporary art. You would think that most artists would enjoy the fact that Fleisher-Ollman is a successful contemporary gallery. There are not enough in this city.

  42. libby says:

    You counted?!!!
    We’re with you on this. F/O’s success is worth celebrating. And so is William Pym’s quirky approach, which we are going to miss sorely. We wish him good luck in the Big Gapple, which is only a borough away, as we learned in the NYTimes.

  43. Randall says:

    Make that a burro away. Peak oil.

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