The Sky is Falling Down

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Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib The Soft Epic or: Savages of the Pacific West (2008) detail of multi-screen video projection; all photos by the author

There’s lots of anxiety in art at the moment; we are living in dark times and it shows. Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib have occupied the entire Icebox space at the Crane Building with The Soft Epic or: Savages of the Pacific West, a 120 foot long video projection with a soundtrack by Bird Snow. It depicts the site of an unspecified disaster set in a modern city, locale unidentified. A street sign bears the common names of Hill and 8th while palm trees at left suggest this might be L.A. – perhaps a reference to Hollywood, whose products the artists acknowledge as a source of their imagery (they specifically mention historical panoramas, sci-fi and disaster films and the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch). At the right is a small farm scene with planted crops and animals, perhaps a vestige of an Edenic past.

The buildings are aflame or in ruins and the city is peopled with wild beasts and various hybrids of human bodies with animal heads. Cat-man in a greatcoat and 18th-century military dress stands in the foreground staring fixedly at the viewer while two cheetahs couple in the mid-ground. Owl-man wears 20th-century military garb and Donkey-man makes occasional appearances in a suit. The sound-track records the ongoing destruction with breaking glass and the noises of falling debris.


Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib The Soft Epic or: Savages of the Pacific West (2008) detail

Large works of art are hard to pull off, and Hironaka and Suib have succeeded in thrusting the viewer into an uncomfortable but utterly compelling, full-scale nightmare. My only doubts are the plethora of birds (including the humming-bird which also appears in Black Hole, their video currently on view at Vox Populi); they seem a conventional image of nature and freedom within a work that is otherwise more original. The Soft Epic reminds me of nothing so much as a little-remembered 1969 film by Richard Lester, The Bed-Sitting Room, set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of London. Sadly, some of the streets not far from the Crane building look like sites of such destruction.

There will be a closing reception for the installation on Thursday, April 10, from 6-9 pm, with performances by Bardo Pond and Spiral Q Puppet Theater.


Installation of These Ghosts That Haunt Us by Tyler Kline and Mike McGovern at Little Berlin

A few blocks north, at Little Berlin is another version of contemporary angst: These Ghosts That Haunt Us; A Psychological Excavation by Tyler Kline and Mike McGovern. The artists collaborated on a number of small works which they call exquisite corpses, although it turns out that one of them completed work begun by the other but with a clear view of the beginnings; perhaps they should just be called collaborations. The exhibition also has work by each artist within an overall installation by Kline which includes aluminum sculptural components and a painted, web-like design enmeshing the walls.


Mike McGovern Memorial to Maureen Patricia Age 19 silkscreen and mixed media. The image is an inverted view of the bridge from which the artist’s sister Maureen fell to her death.

McGovern is a master print-maker: two walls are covered with grids made from a suite of images (prints that use the same plate, block or screen, but with varied inking and colors); the colors and textures are so lush that they resemble pastels, but in fact are screen prints with mixed media. The seductive technique belies their sombre subject-matter: one is of a graffitied, urban dumpster, the other the site of a suicide.

Installation of These Ghosts That Haunt Us with Kline’s collage, The Road to El Dorado, a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe.
Installation of These Ghosts That Haunt Us with Kline’s collage, The Road to El Dorado, a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe.

Tyler Kline is showing a number of collages on vinyl (old 78s, in fact) as well as a stunning, large portrait of Edgar Allen Poe and two multi-part metal floor-pieces of organic forms that I can only describe as turd-like. The entire installation is full of energy; so perhaps some of their ghosts are benign.


Tyler Kline Untitled cast iron and Untitled cast iron and cast bronze. Watch where you step.


Still from jd Yardsale’s
the third idea

Nick Cassway, aka dj Yardsale showed his single-channel video the third idea at International House last month courtesy of InLiquid.com, although it’s still accessible on his web-site. The piece is a sort of video karaoke: Cassway pairs popular songs with public-domain videos found on archive.org (everything from Popeye and home-movies to commercial and instructional films); he calls it a mash-up, hence his dj moniker. Enough of the films are culled from the 1950s that I can’t help but feel the Cold War behind them. The project has the humor of its dissonance and the rudimentary quality of much of the visual material. A cheap shot, perhaps, but who says humor needs original subjects? Cassway is interested in the project as a sort of recycling (or perhaps film garbage studies), and pointedly lets viewers know that his mash-ups are also in the public domain, hence available for the taking. Care for a video dumpster-dive?

Tags

andrea kirsh, bird snow, dj yardsale, matthew suib, mike mcgovern, nadia hironaka, nick cassway, tyler kline

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