Laziness and other evils at Nexus

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Having had a little fun with evil and laziness at Nexus, I thought I’d tell you about it (right, Deborah Hayner’s “We Love to Hate”).
hayner, deborah

The show about evil is about public evil and is appropriately in the more public front room. “Axis of Evil: The Secret History of Sin” is a traveling show of stamp art featuring artists from all around a world. The stamp-sized images, some marked 37 cents and realistic enough to slip past napping postal workers, are of course illegal to use.
hernandez de luna, michael

Their subject, as the show title suggests, is about governmental evil, but corporations and terrorists also make the cut. So do sexual predators and religious institutions–Woody Allen and molestor priests and the lying Catholic bureaucracy, personified by Mother Theresa with a forked tongue. At this tiny, tiny, sometimes 1 or 2 inch size, the political harping loses its leaden quality, becomes light as air and funny as heck (left, “The Baader-Meinhof Girls” by show curator Michael Hernandez de Luna–I loved the Andy Warhol look of these).
baroni, vittore

The images on the sheets of stamps are so small that each one requires slowing down and focusing. With work by more than 40 artists, some of whom contributed more than one piece, the show requires a fair amount of time–but you can also dip in and out and still enjoy yourself.
brownell, matthew

No miscreant escaped the wicked imagery, from artists in black to Harry S Truman as the Unabomber, by Steve Smith, a Florida artist (right, “Plague of the Art Zombies” by Italy’s Vittore Baroni.)

Roberta’s going to have a lot more to say on this one, so I’ll switch here to the back room, which is one enormous conceptual joke, based on Matthew Brownell’s private life as a tv slacker. “Wish I Wasn’t So Lazy” is as charming as conceptual, word-art can get, and it had me laughing out loud (left, Brownell with a detail of “It’s the Little Things in Life,” 50 framed scripts of television advertisements).

Brownell, who studied photography at Penn, lost the photo facilities and his whole m.o. for making art upon graduation. “I was addicted to the clarity of the 4-inch by 5-inch negative,” he said. “I hated 35 millimeters.” But all he had was a 35-millimeter camera.

Plus he was working all day at a couple of part-time jobs, doing data entry as a research assistant for obesity research and helping at Bridgette Mayer Gallery. So he was darned tired and spinning his wheels and apparently watching a lot of tv. “It was a lot of nothing,” he said of his life post graduation.

Then came this idea.

The installation includes “Scenes of the Crime,” 20 photos of the places he sat while watching so much television. It also includes “How it all Went Down”–three televisions, one playing a “Simpsons” episode, one a “Seinfeld” episode, and one “That ’70s Show.” And finally it includes three enormous framed sheets of paper covered with the handwritten transcripts of the three shows (right, the three transcripts, “Wish I Wasn’t So Lazy” ).

Ah, the futility of all that writing of someone else’s writing. Good metaphor.

I pictured Brownell sitting in front of the tv, trying to transcribe all that, but he confessed to me that he got the scripts off the Internet (I love the Internet). As for the commercials, he said he really did record them off the tv and then transcribe them.

Using a genre that has mostly lost its light touch–I’m thinking conceptual word art from John Baldessari, which had some bits of humor, to the humorless and ponderous Lawrence Weiner, to Jenny Holzer with her increasingly ponderous mottoes losing their earlier sizzle–Brownell has created a hip, humorous and sharp observation of his own generation and their tv habits. The ad scripts also decode how commercials and their underpinning ideas keep us all in thrall.

The whole installation reveals our so-called lifelessness in front of the tube, but with a kindness and tenderness that makes it go down easy. I’m guilty. You’re guilty. And maybe it’s kind of funny, this particular sin.

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