Vox VII – nice and easy

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Not as wild as some of its predecessors, Vox VII, the annual emerging artist show at Vox Populi, is a whale of a good show. With 35 artists and all media except performance represented, paintings make a strong showing. No matter how many times people say painting is dead, it just is not, and here the variety of paintings demonstrates the media’s still got some tricks up its sleeve. Sculpture is literally all over the map, from a highly crafted fiber object to a sprawling found-object installation with a video embedded in it to a low-tech gizmo made of wood and having a light element. Video and animation stand out but there’s just a smattering of drawings and a surprisingly small number of photos given that photography is super hip and practiced with a vengeance seemingly everywhere now. A number of the artists are represented with more than one work, which is nice, and keeps you from getting whiplash from the head-spin of marching through a show with one piece per artist.

Hilary Doyle, Pink Notebook, 2011, oil on wood panel

Paintings

Jordan Graw, Priority Number One, 2011, detail, oil on canvas

The paintings in the show deliver a convincing argument of its infinite variety. Jordan Graw manages to evoke early Alex Katz and Milton Avery even as Graw gives the lie to slick advertising that insults us daily with its seductive lies.  In two paintings–Priority Number One and From Broadway to Tanzania–a traveler is pictured enjoying the discomforts of flying. A young man stretches out (oxymoron or do they really think we are morons?) in a cramped, reclining airplane chair, while his gloppy-paint pants and little candy dish grow the fur of travel-grime. In the other the traveler is a middle-aged tourist grinning in front of a white table-cloth-covered tray. Ha ha. What airline is this? His shirt of colorful paint glops is also the only touch of color and individuality–a threat to the corporate-dictated environment of the airplane.

Dustin Metz, Room With a View, 2011, oil on canvas

Dustin Metz’ Room with a View, switches the surrealistic trope of a dislocated view through rose-colored glasses to the view through a pair of pink-ringed eyes, making it both more personal and more sincere. Only the row of paint blobs across the bottom suggest this is as much about painting as it is about dreaming. At a time when we are all eating Mexican food on Girard Avenue or at the Italian Market, this painting is recording a bit of life as we know it–the new Mexican revolution in El Norte.

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Lindsay Wraga, After the Fall, 2011, detail, acrylic and collage on canvas

In contrast to Metz’ vision of Eden in this crazy economy, Lindsay Wraga’s painting with collage elements, After the Fall, is an armageddon of greed.  More like a drawing than a painting–all outlines, largely grisaille, delivered with convincing obsession–the turmoil is palpable with quavering pillars of power about to topple onto piles of wealth–if only. Also taking on excess is Jaime Treadwell, who brings a sort of Candyland sense of colors and a kaleidoscopic sense of structure to life in the exhibitionist fast lane–all painted with traditional trompe-l’oeil oil technique. Hilary Doyle’s Pink Notebook captures a well-worn ordinary specimen of daily school life in all its well-worn perfection. The paint-handling hits the mark, capturing its distressed cover and wobbly spiral binding and at the same time capturing its iconic perfection as beloved–a companion, a friend, a confidante.

 

Sculpture

John Schlesinger, All That Remains, 2011, lab clamps, lab glass, low watt bulbs, rolled steel, video, ink jet prints, silicone rubber

John Schlesinger’s installation “All That Remains,” a network of lab clamps, lab glass, low watt bulbs, steel, video, inkjet prints and silicone rubber, greets you in the gallery’s lobby space. The piece weaves itself through the space like a man-made web whose purpose is a puzzle.

John Schlesinger, video of plumb bob with heavy chaotic looking top

It does seem to trap a video player in it and on that video is an image of a plumb bob with a bushy top, something the artist made and says refers to Altzheimers, a condition that will make you lose your moorings like the top-heavy plumb bob. It’s hard not to read body into the delicate network of rods and nodes here. Far from exuberant and singing the body electric, this is a reference to the body that’s a shadow of its former self, a body reduced to parts that can’t sustain themselves.

Bobby Gonzales, Sun Damage & Crepe Skin Under Eyes, 2011 photocopy, kitchen foil

At the other end of the show in the back room is a pair of vulnerable paper sculptures by Bobby Gonzales. Decay is on his mind, we guess. The body is under threat in Sun Damage & Crepe Skin Under the Eyes, a super-sized photocopy on foil-backed kitchen paper crumpled like the crepe-y skin and tossed on the floor. A net of caterpillar tent-like paper strips enmesh struggling artificial flowers in, Gypsy Moths. The vase is a found object, the paper strips are photocopied paper. The off-hand materials in both pieces, and the mega scale and lack of pedestal in Sun Damage save Gonzales from Victorian vapors over the loss of beauty.

Daniel Petraitis, Corner (with Paul), 2011 concrete, casters

Right nearby, Daniel Petraitis’ elegant concrete replica of a sidewalk corner — curb-cut and all — floating above the floor on casters, threatens to skateboard right over Gonzales’ floor piece and crash through the walls, once it builds up a head of steam. The wheels and disconnection carry that doggedly everyday thing into a Platonic sculptural heaven.

Nathan T. Wilson and Dante Blackstone's two mixed media sculptural works, like king and pawn, queen and jester, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

Nathan T. Wilson and Dante Blackstone’s collaborative pieces, one large (it scrapes the ceiling and towers over the back of one gallery) and one small like a sidekick, are found-object amalgamations that have the physical presence of a queen and her jester or maybe Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The large piece has an hourglass shape covered with a white skirt at the bottom and with a bodice of clear glass through which you see topographical layers of stuff including pink foam insulation, what looks like dirt and hundreds of egg-like golf balls. Together with the smaller, jester-like figure, these two are a new tribe, both dramatic, ancient, and completely part of now. The pieces, by the way, have fanciful titles suggesting they are a royal sentinel (large object) and royal escort (shortie)

Jennifer Lingford, Wound 4 (Bruised Knee), 2010, wool, embroidery thread

Jennifer Lingford’s Wound 4(Bruised Knee), unlike the macho majesty of the previous works, packs a punch demurely in a pedestal-top work of wool and embroidery thread that suggests a knee only, cut off above and below, and floating disembodied like a jewel to be studied and envied for its beauty. It is quite beautiful in fact, and soft-looking and stuffed-animal-like, until you remember it’s just a bruised knee. Funny.

Kevin McCullough, Sign, 2011, street sign, breakaway glass

And Kevin McCullough’s “Sign” a glass-shard encrusted street sign doubled over on the floor is a nice object that brings up reveries of car crashes and glass shards on the street from car break-ins. It’s a large piece and needs more room for it to shine in than it has here.

Video

Chris Domenick, Untitled (screen saver) (unique unit) 2011, video

Chris Domenick’s videos loop on a monitor in the lobby — close-up shots that are like moving still-lifes.  One, Orion, shows marbles on a pinball-machine-like background with holes for the little balls to land on. As the tiny balls roll around and plop into the holes they do evoke the celestial bodies revolving in space and settling into their pre-ordained orbits, only to be disturbed by an energy wave or disruption in the cosmic pattern that will throw them out of their holes and into the void again until they can settle once more. The second work, “Untitled (screen saver)” shows a static, scribble-scrabble drawing on paper and a lively, snake-like tape measure that wiggles across the paper in an agitated manner to suggest a snake on speed. The piece has a quiet audio that hisses as the piece loops on and on in what suggests a kind of Zen koan about work and play, good and evil. These two pieces are pretty great.

Run Shayo, Becoming Be-going, 2011, video; Here is a cross between a car and a pair of giant horns. The horns share one mouthpiece (which is in front of the cloud).

A Chaplinesque everyman alone in a wintery landscape encounters goofy machine-monsters in Run Shayo’s Becoming Be-Going. Our anti-hero, wearing a glass bubble on his head and a rain suit, seems impervious to the pollution the machine-monsters belch at him. They are this forlorn nerd’s only companions in an otherwise vacant world–all lost survivors of some cataclysmic event that we get to make up as we watch the journey to nowhere and root for his survival, which is our survival. He is a kind of scarecrow, all awkwardness, in hot, airless clothes–clammy inside. Everything happens without much of a plot, like Pilgrim’s Progress, yet this video has the charm of its leading man and the surprising objects in his re-calibrated existence to help carry us along.

Jonathan Monaghan, Dauphin 007, 2011, 3D computer-animated HD film

The short, computer-animated film Dauphin 007 by Jonathan Monaghan is a morality tale with animal characters. A lion and a crow are rivals and position themselves for the crown. Only one can have it, but the one that presumably is destined for it (the lion) only gets it in heaven after the wily crow engineers the lion’s beheading. The conflation of religion, animal lore and swanky 3D animation is interesting if somewhat off-putting. The animals move in a choppy, Second Life fashion and the entire short story, with its echoes of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with the Christ-like Aslan, is weirdly preachy.

Tara Kelton’s Leonardo, 2008, is a parody of a teach yourself how to draw video lesson only here what’s being drawn is a kind of abstract black mass with nothing Leonardo-esque about it. Also funny. And Ben Pederson’s sad-sack video — of a drawing with animated text that may or may not be autobiographical — fits our contemporary taste for self-exposure without dignity.

Photographs

Milana Braslavsky, White Shirt Red Skirt, 2009, archival inkjet print. photo courtesy http://pichaus.com/

Milana Braslavsky’s White Shirt Red Skirt is odd enough to be a Diane Arbus update. Pictured is the artist (or at least her legs from the thighs down) wearing a red skirt that starts at her knees and goes to just above the ankles. She has a white blouse on top of the skirt, and that starts at the thighs. The legs are far apart in a bow-legged stance. It’s a funny take on fashion, and on little people, and perhaps, on wanting to be small when you’re not. Ben Goddard’s two photos — of sky writing in a blue sky and of a crowded room with a ping pong table — are nice, if nothing new.

Drawing

Scott Giblin, Untitled (Where Pizzas Crawl), 2011 Graphite on paper

Drawing was surely not a main focus in this show, although there’s plenty of stuff we could recategorize to fall here–Wraga, Gonzales, Kelton and Pederson for starters. But the drawing that’s a drawing and none of those other things that is surely worth a mention is Scott Giblin’s pizza smothering two children with cheesy drips. The drawing is small enough to be overlooked in a room full of large pieces, a modest scale of about eight inches square executed nicely in a modest medium, graphite. Equally modest in demeanor is Giblin, whom we met at the opening. We pried out of him that he was one of the artists in the show, and he readily confessed that the drawing is based on a photo of an aggressive pizza that is consuming a couple of kids. At this time when horror movies walk the earth and dominate movie box offices, this Casper the Friendly Pizza treads where only The Blob has gone before. It looked fresh and new!

The take-away from the show, which was curated by Melissa Ho (aka the artist M. Ho) and Hennessy Youngman (aka the artist Jayson Scott Musson), is that contemporary popular culture is alive and well and a major presence in art–nice and easy and still providing pizza for thought and candy for the eyes.

Tags

ben goddard, ben pederson, bobby gonzales, chris domenick, daniel petraitis, dante blackstone, dustin metz, hennessy youngman, hilary doyle, jaime treadwell, jennifer lingford, john schlesinger, jonathan monaghan, jordan graw, kevin mccullough, lindsay wraga, m. ho, melissa ho, milana braslavsky, nathan t. wilson, run shayo, scott giblin, tara kelton, vox populi, vox populi gallery, vox vii

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