Weekly Update – The Great Society at Klein Art Gallery


This week’s Weekly has my review of The Great Society at Klein Art Gallery. Below is the copy with a picture and more at flickr (I’ll put more in the post later). Here’s Libby’s flickr set

Irony Rich
“The Great Society” invites you to drop out.

Joulia Strauss
Newsreader in the faux news program in Joulia Strauss’s video in the Great Society.

“The Great Society” at Klein Art Gallery is a dirge in eight-part harmony about our not-so-great society. Even if you don’t know the show’s historical reference (Lyndon Johnson’s optimistic social program of the 1960s), you’ll grasp its irony.

Guest curator Daniel Fuller’s group exhibit of six artists and two artist collectives presents our times as if reflected in a funhouse mirror. Like the satirical artists George Grosz and Otto Dix in Weimar, Germany, the artists in this show create views of life that are familiar but exaggerated to the point of parody.

Joulia Strauss’ five-minute DVD The Earth Is Flat—Bob Ross Is Not Dead is one of the strongest in a show of strong works. Strauss, a Berlin-based artist, skewers the media with a faux European-style nightly news program that’s a mix of YouTube and MTV. It’s raw, sexy and funny. In one segment, an Einstein-lookalike scientist and an interviewer dressed in a USPS mail carrier shirt talk about scientific fact and theory. The scientist says the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth and science can’t prove otherwise. It’s a 2007 update on the hippie slogan, “Question authority.”

Claire Fontaine
Claire Fontaine’s slow burn video. Fontaine is an art collaborative based in Paris.

A video projection by the Paris collective Claire Fontaine plays a continuous loop of a fire. The urban backyard conflagration is a slow and silent burn and could be breaking news from a local TV station anywhere in the world. The beautiful piece seduces like a stained glass window of a medieval torture scene—you don’t want to look but can’t tear your eyes away.

Huang, Shih Chieh's tiny robot on a turntable. It flashes and tweets and is friendly as a video arcade game. Materials include a toy gun and what look like Tupperware containers, in addition to plastic handcuffs, lights and circuitry.
Huang, Shih Chieh’s tiny robot on a turntable. It flashes and tweets and is friendly as a video arcade game. Materials include a toy gun and what look like Tupperware containers, in addition to plastic handcuffs, lights and circuitry.

J. Shih Chieh Huang’s RTI 9—a robot on a caffeine high—twirls, taps, beeps and sings like R2-D2. It’s made of electronic parts and video arcade junk like a plastic toy gun and colored plastic handcuffs. The piece is so charming it disarms without having to use the firearm. The subversion of cheap electronics to the needs of art is a reminder of the interweaving of art and life, and also of engineering, war and commerce. Huang’s appropriation of gun, handcuffs and gadgetry isn’t far removed from corporate appropriation of products like Teflon, acrylic polymers and the Internet. Only unlike the corporations, Huang’s profits won’t be millions of dollars.

Isaac Resnikoff
Isaac Resnikoff’s We’ve Run Out of Continent

Others in this not-to-be-missed show are local artist Isaac Resnikoff, Amy Yao, David Clayton and Huong Ngo.

Great Society installation
Great Society installation. Foreground, David Clayton, All Systems are Go, 2006. mixed media installation that was DIY NASA-gotta love it. Background, Huong Ngo, Hazmat Suit.

Our time is full of visual imagery, most of it controlled by corporations. Art is a small voice in this vast image-rich chaos. Shows like this—full of visual pleasures and loaded with critiques of media and culture—are the canary in the mineshaft urging a retreat from what’s quick, easy and accessible at the push of a button.

“The Great Society”
Opening reception Fri., Aug 24, 5:30-8pm. Free. Through Sept. 29. Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, 3600 Market St. 215.966.6188.


claire fontaine, david clayton, esther klein gallery, huong ngo, isaac resnikoff, j shih chieh huang, joulia strauss, the great society


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