Utopian Mars pods

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If Buzz Lightyear headed toward a space station, he’d no doubt land on one of Michael Greathouse’s sculptures (right, “Tomorrow Never Comes”).

Greathouse, who is showing his work in the back room of Vox Populi this month through October, creates the what-is-it-shapes that bring to mind my son’s old Star Wars toys, except Greathouse has had the good sense to get beyond basic gray. Furthermore, the shapes have a blocky toy look–with shallow knobs and protrusions that make me think of Lego creations.

Colored in vivid Pop colors, these objects have all marks of hand-craftsmanship and idiosyncracy removed, to give them the character of die-cast factory perfection (left, “Over and Out”).

Turns out, that’s a lie. They’re unique, they’re made of wood, and then they’re painted.

So that’s what it seems the work is about–the lie of techno-perfectability; the lie of the impersonal, factory-built product; the lie in the valuation of multiples over unique things; and the lie of a rubber ducky for every tubby–the lie of the utopian consumer culture.

The quirkiness of the shapes is the first hint that all is not what it seems. And the cheerful toys-for-boys quality keeps the pieces from falling into a dreary didacticism (right, “There is no Comfort in the Truth”). The space station content makes me think there’s also so criticism here of intergalactic imperialism–do we really want to conquer Mars and then live there? What kind of life is that?

The pieces stand in stark contrast to the quirk-less, modern, factory-made sculptures of Donald Judd, for example (left). The questioning of Modernism and all that it implies is a big topic, and somehow Greathouse has done it with some subtlety and humor.

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