Thursday morning meatballs

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Herein a few comments on a great show I saw but couldn’t write about for the Weekly but thought I could so held off writing about here. See Libby’s post for more.

Oners

Like many things that appear in Fleisher-Ollman Gallery, the works in this show are all “oners.” They may be meatballs but they’re individual meatballs first, and their ability to cohere as a group is a result of some nice curating by the young threesome in charge, Jina Valentine, William Pym and Brendan Greaves. Of course the glorious big space helps as well, providing ample breathing room for the pieces to exist side by side without beating each other up.

If there’s a hallmark in the show it’s that the art is not particularly loveable. That’s not to knock it. Because really how loveable is Guernica…or anything by George Segal, Ed Kleinholz or Marina Abramovicz? Some art doesn’t want to be loved. It wants to talk at you or to you and that’s what we have here. Yakkety yak, don’t talk back.


The most nervous talkers, the ones whose urgency seems off the charts, are Frank Vagnone and Jack Sloss. Vagnone, with his anthropomorphosed assemblages that include the kitchen sink and all, read like visionary riffs on Greys Anatomy. (top image is a Vagnone piece) And Sloss, with his two-channel video piece of weird, floating imagery like clowns and masked men looming like astronauts in zero gravity traps you in his orbit and won’t let you go. (second image is Sloss’s twin videos)

Both artists’ works are compulsive talkers who won’t let you get a word in edgewise. It’s after you leave their aura that you can talk back at them, agree or disagree. Vagnone’s two pieces, which have a survivalist-art aesthetic, compel you to look and to think about the body’s insides and the mind housed in there somewhere. But the affect is so splayed and raw I felt like I was gaping at a roadside accident with myself the accident victim.

Sloss’s melange of odd imagery, like Vagnone’s melange of hardware and stuff, provide a kind of mirroring of the world today. Both artists works seem to swim in our culture of narcissism and self-loathing yet the issues they raise — about body, disease, technology — posit a less than rosy future.

Unlike “Self” magazine, dedicated to the study of you, all about you, aren’t you the best, these two works treat self to a cold water bath. You may be you but you’re not great they say. Get over you and let’s talk about something bigger, like us, society, social contract, our future.

I’ve become obsessed with the thought that America has broken the social contract and the thought scares me. Gone are ideas about supporting each other with programs that help the less fortunate. We dally with privatizing our future; we sleep through election day not caring whether our vote counts or not. We preen therefore we are. Artists whose work sounds the alarm about the vulnerability of us all in the culture of narcissism — as I think these works do — are artists to watch. Like the canary in the coal mine they’re bringing in a message. I only hope it’s not too late to turn around.

Elsewhere in the show lurk many pieces I had brief discussions with in my head.


Michael Khaisman‘s backlit packing tape on plexiglas pieces are as familiar as Bogey and Bergman even though the materials are a surprise. (image above)


Johanna Inman‘s digital blow-ups of what look to be discarded and damaged glass slides from some art museum are a better take on empire than Ed Ruscha‘s large, vacuous paintings at the Whitney. (see post, and sorry to beat a dead horse.) Gone, gone, gone are the days of glass slides and reverence without questioning for, well, for anything at all.


Leah Bailis‘s little suburban tract houses and P. Timothy Gierschick‘s symbol paintings conduct a sidebar conversation about restricted horizons, house as pressure cooker and yearning for better. (image above) I found the dialog between the works compelling.


B. Ever Nalens‘ scotch tape transfer piece (above, with Gallerist John Ollman looking at it. Ollman had to point the piece out to me — I completely didn’t see it at first.) and Michael Coppage‘s pop-rivetted cardboard oculuses are great-looking. (that’s Coppage’s piece below.)

Nathaniel Davis‘s drawings on graph paper and Alex Paik‘s symbol paintings echo Gierschick and Bailis.


Curator Greaves wrote us a while back to say that he, Valentine and Pym have been working as a curatorial team “for several years, with shows not just at Fleisher/Ollman, but likewise Harvard University, Art 36 Basel, Scope Miami.”

Keep up the good work, guys!

By the way, you can see these photos and more in larger size on my flickr site.

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