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Weekly Update – Postmodernist Flurries in Fleisher-Ollman’s emerging artist show


This week’s Weekly has my review of Fleisher-Ollman’s emerging artist invitational.  Below’s the copy with some pictures.  More photos at flickr.

The world is a diminished place in “I Don’t Watch the Internet,” Fleisher-Ollman Gallery’s seventh annual emerging artist survey. A non-themed invitational that’s big on miniatures and works that whir and clack, the show rounds up modest-scale sculptures, and drawings and forlorn videos that fit with the current economic climate.

James Johnson, Stop Following Me, image courtesy Fleisher-Ollman Gallery
James Johnson, Stop Following Me, image courtesy Fleisher-Ollman Gallery

Viewers are in the land of disenchantment with nine artists who are wizards of sentimentality (or faux sentimentality). This isn’t kitsch, although, like most artists, these individuals seem to have been inspired by Jeff Koons, the master of post-modern irony and ambiguity.

James Johnson, Stop Following Me, 2009. neon sign, foam insulation, cardboard, box, extension cord. 12x48x12″ 1/5

Stop Following Me, a neon word piece by James Johnson, is the most overtly postmodern piece in the show. The fabricated neon sign is in its shipping box, lid-open, on the floor. From afar, the box emits a delicious blue light that reels you in, the hook for the passive-aggressive punchline. An edition of five, Stop Following Me is an object conflicted– like a teen who hates you yet needs a trip to the mall, please. If the piece is a comment on the dumbing-down of our whole culture, I buy it.

Cari Freno, Hold (from the Pocahantas State Park series) 2009 HD video loop, ed. 35

Videos by Cari Freno, Hold and Hang, are also highly postmodern. The artist, seen embracing a tree (in Hold) and hanging from a tree (in Hang), seems to accept and poke fun at “tree-hugging” at the same time.

Jay Hardman, Cake Block, 2009. synthetic chocolate cake, frosting, wood, concrete

Even works made from new materials—like Jay Hardman’s wonderful miniature landscapes made of chocolate cake and icing, or James Johnson’s minimalist dollhouse rooms—contribute to the ambiance of a played-out universe, a place we know and are fond of but are emotionally distanced from.

Gabriel Boyce, Green Screen 2009, aluminum tubing, plastic webbing, rivets 70 1/2 x 55 1/2 x 1″

There is cultural commentary everywhere. Gabriel Boyce’s Green Screen, a hand-fashioned “Shoji” screen made of cheap plastic webbing and bent aluminum rods is an unlikely mashup. But as a comment on American tackiness washing over something elegant, Green Screen is right on Target (ahem).

Jordan Griska, Gas Pump, 2009. vintage 1960s gas pump, hydraulics, 53x24x18″

Jordan Griska’s Gas Pump, a real pump reduced to child’s size by a series of origami folds in the metal frame, feels cautionary. The piece (which smells vaguely of gas) is somehow both cute and monstrous.

Ashley John Pigford, 28,770 Megabytes, 2008. computer hard drives, micro controller, electronics, wood, wire. 36x34x6″

Ashley John Pigford’s interactive computer-part gizmos clack and knock wood (literally, with wooden mallets on xylophone keys) when you push a button. The hacked and neutered electronics are reduced to court jesters—vehicles of entertainment. And John Broderick Heron’s table-top construction landscapes teetering on sticks show a world completely out of whack.

Installation shot, with Jay Hardman’s Vacancy in foreground and Sarah Laina Koljonen’s Comma Scroll, rear, on wall

In a weird twist, most of the drawings in the show (apart from a series of small works by Boyce) feature small items scaled to supersize proportions. Sarah Laina Koljonen’s Comma Scroll puffs up and elongates several commas to ridiculous proportions, a comical play on the lack of commas in eastern grammar — or, perhaps, the super abundance of commas, in western grammar. Sebastien Leclercq’s monumental faux graph paper drawings (blue pencil on paper) likewise elevate the lowly graphing sheets to gargantuan proportions for risible ends.

A big dose of postmodernism might not be your cup of tea this holiday season, but this show will keep you smiling.

“I Don’t Watch the Internet.” Through Jan. 16. Fleisher-Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut St. 215.545.7562.