Ha Ha Boo Hoo

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Now that Ahnold is almost a governor, the world seems one vast, right-wing cartoon.

But that’s too scary to talk about. So let’s talk about some other cartoons, the ones that exist as animated or non-animated satires and that seem to be everywhere in the galleries these days.

I have always loved cartoons, especially for their ability to transport the viewer into an alternate universe. Done well, cartoons are a first-class imagination transport system.

Most, if not all the works in the Illegal Art exhibit at Nexus (see post Oct. 5) are cartoons. Many of them didn’t transport me….being a little heavy-handed or too expected (Barney with a noose around his neck?).

On the other hand, artblog’s Eric McDade achieves lift-off with his Art Alliance exhibit “More Exercises in Self-Pity.” “Pity” which includes the artist’s trademark black on white graphics has carved out a niche for himself in the self-doubt and secret loathings department. His work takes the passive-agressive inner monolog to a higher level. (see image top, left)

Vox Populi, which seems to attract a lot of cartoonists to its stable, this month also takes you on great head trips. “Killer cartoons” in Vox’s new video lounge (a couple of chairs in front of a tv monitor opposite the front desk) is a loop of four short animations on the theme of death. Jason Scheidel, Nadia Hironaka, Jennifer Macdonald and Kota Ezawa provide the animateds and each one packs a punch. Ezawa’s was the biggest surprise — a straight-forward cartoonization of the televised reading of the verdict at the OJ Simpson trial. Ezawa, who turned the broadcast into something of an Alex Katz-ian netherworld, — flat affect everywhere — hits one out of the ballpark. (image second from top, right is from Ezawa’s video)

Elsewhere in the Vox galleries, Nami Yonemoto’s surround-cloud environment (third image from top) and Erin Weckerle’s butterfy collages and pillows on the floor are cartoon immersions.

“Team Work,”in the back space, is a show of collaborations by Vox members. It’s cartooning as done in childhood — together with friends with a high degree of make-believe. Here, there’s a calico castle (by Weckerle/Aaron Wexler, image above right); a shadow, puppet piece (by Mauro Zamora/Eva DiOrio, image above left), a Barbie-Ken hot-rod made of concrete on springs (by Clint Takeda/Shannon Bowser, below right) and even a video collaboration (by Hironaka/Matthew Suib, image below left) on a teeny, Hello Kitty-sized, 3”x5” video screen that seems to capture footage a child might focus on — feet walking through a subway; the magic of a ski-lift seen from afar; the horror of a big, open-mouthed fish seen up close in a pond.

The art world is a vast and crazy place and I don’t want to suggest a steady diet of satire to anyone. But I do wonder if the the sheer volume of satirical artworks in circulation is a rising barometer of artists’ worries about the present and the future.

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