Paper Incoming II — Vox Populi


The concept driven video, sculpture, prints, drawings and paintings by members of the Boston collective, ONI fit right in at Vox Populi, whose members also make concept-propelled work in video, sound-sculpture, prints, drawings and painting. (Here’s a resource page I found on ONI. They don’t appear to have a website.)

ONI, which operates an art center in Boston’s Chinatown, is an activist-type group dedicated to nurturing young talent and art with social themes. I read that the group is having some trouble with its landlord at the moment and that may account for their show at Vox this month.


The show’s got young, energetic work, and while overall there’s a high degree of professionalism I’d say it’s an ok outing, with a few pieces that walk in the shadows of other artists’ work and don’t go far enough afield.


Digital collages by one Oni member (sorry I don’t know the name) merge photographs of nude children whose heads are Jon Benet look-alikes with a drawn background right out of Henry Darger. The whole seemed pat and obvious in its message about child-porn in the art world. (image top) [Ed. note: this paragraph originally attributed the collages to Jennifer Schmidt. That was incorrect.]


Beth Brideau’s large drawings, which evoke landscapes broken down to some absurd level of shape and inference look made from watercolor stains on paper enhanced by delicate pencil marks encircling the shapes. (image) They seem process-driven and because of that, and because of the stain aspect, they called to mind Ingrid Calame, famous for tracing stains on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and making paintings from the stains.


Fabian Birgfeld’s infinity mirror piece, too, seemed to walk too close to Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored infinity box now at the ICA. (image is detail) Birgfeld’s light show inside his tall narrow cube seems to be a video of a tree which has been doubled and mirrored on itself for a Rorschach-like effect.


In each case, the art would have been more reverberant had it gone past the source material and into more personal realms.


The sound-sculptural pieces by David Webber and Timothy Bailey are notable more for their audio affect than for their sculptural presence.

Webber’s piece (shown) includes live pine trees, twin peaks atop a white utility cart. The affect is ordinary enough until you set off their audio component, something you’re invited to do by a “please touch” sign nearby.

The sound you trigger with your touch is a whine akin to a chain saw (or maybe the world’s biggest bumblebee) and after an initial shock of recognition, the sound drove me out of the room. A conceptual anti-logging piece? a forest on wheels? I couldn’t think because of the noise pollution.


Bailey’s piece, twin figures stylized ala Giacometti, were rooted at the bottom with drum cymbals for feet. (image is detail) The cymbals, which had been torn and broken, were “stitched” with wire in nice, even cross-stitching. The piece’s audio hissed at you like a steam radiator although I couldn’t figure out why. Perhaps the objects were snakes, not figures. The cymbals were labelled “crash” and made by Zildjian or Sabian and that may have been a clue about ethnicity or something. But the piece didn’t hold my interest long enough to puzzle it out.


Daniel Lefcourt’s paintings of black, coal-like rocks on unprimed linen get my vote as best of show. (shown is detail) Their sometimes shiny, sometimes matte surfaces, which changed as you moved from one space to another in the gallery, had a “Dick’s House of Rocks” charm. (You know, one of those places in Colorado to buy spiffy rocks and gems). In their matte form, they reminded me of Anish Kapoor’s wondrous black holes in his sculptural rocks.


Justin Lieberman’s narrative video (shown) of a lonely, mushroom-headed, jockey-shorts wearing hippy who smokes a little, drinks a little, shoots guns a little and finds true love then gets whacked by some rednecks is low tech in the extreme and far too long. Even though it was didactic (anti drug, anti gun) I give it props for the mushroom head conceit which was amusing and openly readable (kid with disability? confused pothead?).

Rounding out the crew is Daniel Dueck’s small painting of trees attached to a wall-spanning drawing in yarn that suggested a constellation of Christmas lights.

All in all, the show seems a little academic for a socially-active collective but I am happy to make the crew’s acquaintance and hope they settle with their landlord.

Final note, there was no list for the show and no wall labels — just the artists names on the walls in the corners of the rooms. So I might have made some mistakes of attribution. Hope not. Maybe someone can tell me if I did.