Forlorn, oh forlorn

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Libby told you about the Altoids Curiously Strong Collection show at PAFA in her very good post and I’ll be covering it in my review this Wednesday in PW but I wanted to put up a few images and add a couple thoughts here that follow on my remarks about the current fad for nihilistic, goth imagery among young artists. (top image is Aida Ruilova’s video “You’re Pretty”)

Not to hammer the point too hard but this is a show whose affect is sad, with work that riffs on the trickery of things and the slipperiness of reality. Elizabeth Demaray‘s rocks that masquerade as baseballs are the light side of trickery, reverberating in lyrical, upbeat what if-ism.

And Brad Tucker‘s “Desktop,” (left) which looks like a kid-made skateboard with a stack of obsolete floppy disks is also upbeat, not only because of its candy colors, but for its reference to childhood enterprise.

But the rest of the works here, from asianpunkboy‘s white and rhinestone-encrusted switchblade (a decorated murder weapon?) to Aida Ruilova‘s disturbing video “You’re Pretty,” (top image) tread deep waters without a life jacket.

Ruilova, featured in the Whitney Biennial in a — sadly — memorable installation of noisy videos about nasty interpersonal relationships, here, does a similar thing, in a mercifully short (36 seconds) piece that juxtaposes bizarre, repetitive, quasi-self-abusive behavior with sing-song mantra “You’re pretty; you’re pretty.”

I suppose it might be a comment on advertising or reality tv and if so I applaud it. Akin in spirit to the Chapman brothers’ transgressive works, it’s a full-frontal assault of a piece. Maybe its true home is on television as an anti-commercial right after some Calvin Klein perfume ad.

Hernan Bas, also featured here and in this year’s Biennial, creates drab scenarios where inky voids threaten to overwhelm solitary figures who may be next to each other but are completely alone in their thoughts and enterprise. (image right)

And Daniel Davidson‘s untitled piece (left) which on its face reminded me of two other draftsmen of existential cartoon art, Philip Guston and William Kentridge, might be drawing the universe today — a little light, some drink, a chewed up plank of wood and books relegated to props.

I don’t mean to imply any of this is bad art. Quite the opposite. It’s good art but sour and medicinal. And it kind of wallows where we’ve been for some time now, down in the dumps.

I’m waiting for the explosion to the new level — it’s wrong of me to hope. And things never explode just kind of creep in. But I don’t see a lot of evidence of creeping optimism at the moment and I could sure use some.

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