Weekly Update 2 – Big Room Now at the Icebox


This week’s Weekly has my review of Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s Big Room Now installation at the Icebox. Here’s the link to the art page. And here’s my flickr for more photos, and check out Libby’s flickr set.

Pairing Down
He adds his touch to her papier-mache sculpture. She stars in his YouTube video.

Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch with Lindsay Beebe
Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch with Lindsay Beebe
Mr. Ashley, 2006
Mixed media
82 x 26 x 36 inches (208.3 x 66 x 91.4 cm)

Ryan Trecartin
and Lizzie Fitch moved to Philly last summer after Hurricane Katrina interrupted their year in New Orleans.

Their new collaborative sculptures in “Big Room Now,” are a combination of found objects and handmade papier-mache figures, and the overall ambience is Mardi Gras floats-on-parade with beads, feathers and frou frou.

The pieces critique both the art and real world, especially It’s Over—Be More Gay, a family scene with mom and dad on a stage in exuberant dance postures while a baby videotapes them. The piece evokes old-school art (Matisse) as well as new.

Ryan Trecartin with Lizzie Fitch, Kenny Curran and Brian McKelligott
Ryan Trecartin with Lizzie Fitch, Kenny Curran and Brian McKelligott
It’s Over – Be More Gay, 2006
Mixed media
76 x 126 x 132 inches (193 x 320 x 335.3 cm)

Mr. Ashley, the papier-mache figure that’s easiest to understand, shows a preposterously overweight man preening in front of a mirror. As a representation of a person or of something bigger—like our culture today—it’s a knockout.

DIY group art like this (some works give credit to other crew members) using a combination of handmade and found materials is turning up more and more. And while it seems to fit a category of sculptural assemblage that goes back to Ed Kienholz, there’s less anger and a cooler feel here.

The videos, (see a bunch at his YouTube page) likewise, have a cool touch disguised behind their acid colors and thick, choppy, dangerous ambience—like porn filmed in a basement. Made by Trecartin (with Fitch and other friends also in the cast), the videos—like his hit A Family Finds Entertainment, which was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial—are dark and suffocating, with an aesthetic that combines gay-vampy-campy and Grand Guignol’s fake blood and horrible teeth. They’re easily compared to Jesper Just’s over-the-top cinematic operas in Temple Gallery’s “Empathetic.” Only here, Trecartin’s style is YouTube raunchy-weird instead of high cinema.

Yo a Romantic Comedy

Tommy Chat Just E-Mailed Me and Yo, a Romantic Comedy channel youth culture and its language, obsessions and increasing dependence on and comfort with cyberspace. Trecartin isn’t passing judgment. The world depicted, though nightmarish and illogical (people pretending to cut themselves and fake blood everywhere, but nobody dies), seems to be cheerfully accepted. These aren’t political Saturday Night Live skits. It’s more like anthropology where Trecartin, like Jane Goodall, is so inside the “monkey sphere” that he’s taking everything in and saying “whatever.”

Trecartin, 26 and a RISD grad, is on a meteoric trajectory. A Family Finds Entertainment, which had a cult following on YouTube, catapulted him to the Whitney and into the collection of British tastemaker Charles Saatchi. He just had a solo show at QED in Los Angeles, and has two more coming at Elizabeth Dee Gallery in New York (opens May 12) and Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris (December, 2007). Crane Arts co-owner Richard Hricko says collectors from Dallas flew in before the opening to see the new work.

Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch with Rhett LaRue
Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch with Rhett LaRue
I’m just like, 2006 (detail)
Mixed media
92 x 162 x 66 inches (233.7 x 411.5 x 167.6 cm)

Trecartin and Fitch went to school together, and it’s there they began collaborating on sculpture and video projects. The kidlike “let’s play” quality unifies all the works and makes them cheerful in spite of themselves.

“Big Room Now: Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch”
Through Feb. 24. Icebox Project Space, Crane Arts Building, 1400 American St. 215.232.3203.



Big Room Now, crane arts building, Icebox, Lizzie Fitch, monkeysphere, Ryan Trecartin, sculpture, Weekly Update, YouTube



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