Weekly Update – Solid Gold winners at Vox Populi

This week’s Weekly has my review of Solid Gold at Vox Populi. Below is the copy with some pictures. More photos at flickr.

Vox Populi’s fourth annual emerging artist show is a lovely human-centric affair full of narrative art with many stories that attempt, each in its own way, to explain the vulnerable place humankind is at right now.

We’re bodies and minds threatened by the collision of man-made and natural worlds and by disease, excess, hatred and war. But while the show channels some dark thoughts, the 24-artist show doesn’t whine or nag, and remains energetic if not optimistic.


Edward Carey
Edward Carey, A Jack Hammer is So Real. 2007. digital video DVD. detail. Here the artist is climbing the face of a church.

Video works are especially adept at telling human stories. Videos by Zach Rockhill, Edward Carey and Pamela Sunstrum show bodies interacting with and sometimes under assault by their environments. These artists are performers in the tradition of ’70s endurance-art greats Vito Acconci and Chris Burden. Happily, the young artists temper their silent, action-packed pieces with lighter moments that bring the spirit of Charlie Chaplin to the mix.

Zack Rockhill
Zack Rockhill, This Side Down, Damn if I Know. 2007. video. detail.


Rockhill’s short looping video (with great swooshing audio) in which the artist gets bandied about in a room that appears to be freed from gravity and logic is a mesmerizing work about chaos, chance and control.

Carey’s piece involves about six separate actions. In each, he places his body into an absurdist relationship with the manufactured world. He shimmies Spider-Man-like down the stairs in his house and squeezes juice from an orange using his cheek and a brick wall. In my favorite he stands in the street at a red light holding a car bumper before him and takes off at a trot—with all the other cars—when the light changes. The tasks are both laughable and poignant, and speak to the difficulty of being a human surrounded by systems not of your own design.

Pamela Sunstrum, detail from her performance video.
Pamela Sunstrum, detail from her performance video.

Sunstrum performs a gustatory feat—eating an endless hank of black hair. At times the film rewinds and the hair comes out of her mouth instead of going in. The piece made me gag. While it’s not a new thought, it reminds me of how we fetishize hair, and how young women especially are trapped in a culture that is focused unhealthily on bodily perfection.


Bang-Geul Han
Bang-Geul Han, Steven and Jared. interactive video.

It’s not surprising that words and the alphabet make an appearance. Language rules our lives in many ways. Bang-Geul Han’s video Steven and Jared projects a randomly swirling alphabet soup of letters on a large wall while two small audio speakers nearby play the voices of children reading texts about language, translation, the Internet and an NPR-induced headache.

Abby Donovan
Abby Donovan, Some of What Don Quixote Said, fired clay.

The innocence of the children’s voices stumbling through wordy sentences plays nicely against the bouncing letters of the video. Language here is a meaningless and headache-producing babble. Abby Donovan’s pile of handmade clay alphabet letters on the floor seems to have popped right out of Han’s video. Some of What Don Quixote Said is a perfect memorial to the voluble knight whose story of impossible goals reverberates today.

Daniel Payavis
Daniel Payavis, The Floating World Invented Mountain. 2007. oil on canvas

Daniel Payavis subverts words and letters by turning them into hard-edged design elements in his stark and beautiful small paintings.

R. Nick Barbee
R. Nick Barbee, Thomas Jefferson

Also worth mentioning are R. Nick Barbee’s Thomas Jefferson figurine and his backyard taxonomy paintings of birds, trees and clouds (which seem to be channeling Lewis and Clark);

Bill Lohre
William Lohre’s Midas, detail.

William Lohre’s cardboard depiction of the King Midas story;

Mark Klassen
Mark Klassen’s Street Transformer, 2007.

Mark Klassen’s deadpan mini-models of an office desk, a drop ceiling and a transformer box;

Lee Arnold
Lee Arnold, Stereo, 2007. Super 8 film with sound

Lee Arnold’s dreamy black-and-white video about vision and memory;

Samuel Ekwurtzel
Samuel Ekwurtzel, Untitled 2006/08. polyurethene foam, oscillator. The piece shook like it had just seen a ghost.

and Samuel Ekwurtzel’s untitled white sculptural lamb, a little motorized sweetie that quivers and quakes, and in light of the show’s theme could be a stand-in for us all—alone, all alone, poor little lamb.

“Solid Gold” Through June 27.
Free. Vox Populi, 319A N. 11th St., third fl.