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The opposite of eye candy at Jolie Laide’s Dirt Don’t Hurt


“Dirt Don’t Hurt.”  But it sure do stick in the eye. The group exhibit at Jolie Laide, guest-curated by artist Bill Saylor, creates a double whammy of forlorn-ness by covering the gallery’s red brick walls with black plastic sheeting and then plopping on the dark and brooding art. This anti-beauty aesthetic is one big wallop of the downbeat.

Dirt Don’t Hurt at Jolie Laide, installed on black plastic sheeting that covers the brick walls. Joyce Pensato painting on the far wall.

That said, there’s work here that’s lovable– like a frisky puppy that’s wandered into a thistle patch. Jose Lerma’s Charles II of Spain, a floor piece that looks like a rug (it’s made of cut rug scraps) is oriented upside down from your initial view of it. When you circle around the piece reveals itself as a portrait–a very funny portrait–of the Spanish king (1661-1700).

Jose Lerma’s rug piece Charles II of Spain; Nathan Gwynne’s collage Live Better Electrically and Esther Klaes’ Untitled sculpture

Why a rug portrait of Charles II of Spain I can’t say but this piece is a surprise and its cartoon-like drawing style offsets lackluster colors and scruffy materials. Royalty sunk to the level of carpet scrap is a nice comment on the past in general and reflects many peoples’ relation to history.  We’d rather walk on it than really confront it.

Brad Kalmhamer, 10 Ughs, spray paint, gouache, ink on paper

Brad Kalmhamer’s “10 Ughs” gets my vote for wittiest title for an artwork in recent history. The iconic work on paper, made with spray paint, gouache and ink, presents a vulture with wings upraised, like something on the warpath.  There’s advertising-like copy at the top and the word “Jollywoodland” at the bottom, with the “ughs”– blurts of negativity and resignation — peppered about in little starbursts that mimic old fashioned advertising or word bubbles in Marvel comics fight scenes.  Skulls appear everywhere, including on the head of the vulture.  And as with Lerma’s rug, there’s a suggestion of violence both in the brut aesthetic and in its evocation of death.

The most overtly violent piece is Nathan Gwynne and Esther Klaes’ “The Piano Lesson,” a 2-channel video installation set in two planks of wood that shows the artists banging on an upright piano, smashing down on the keys and otherwise abusing the poor thing. The piano torture takes place in a small closet-like space that evokes torture chambers everywhere but also those small rooms that pass for music studios in some music schools.  Also funny and dark.

David Brooks, Adjustable Sculpture with Sailfish

The piece I loved most is David Brooks’ “Adjustable Sculpture with Sailfish,” which has just the right feel of absurdism and seems to poke fun at the found object sculpture genre at the same time that it’s a great found object work.  You’ll find the sailfish in the gallery’s project space (across the alleyway) where it takes up a lot of space and looks wonderful.

Saylor, the curator, is a New York artist represented by Leo Koenig Gallery (He was in Jolie Laide’s show De-Nature, curated by Wendy White, also represented by Koenig.  The artists in this exhibit, in addition to those mentioned, Leo Gabin, Aidas Bareikis, Michael Williams, Sadie Laska, Jeff Elrod, Brian Belott, Brendan Cass, Anke Weyer, Leif Ritchey, Harmony Korine, Joe Bradley and Institutt for Degenerert Kunst, are from the New York area. The show’s up until July 23.


brad kalmhamer, david brooks, dirt don't hurt, esther klaes, jolie laide, jose lerma, joyce pensato, nathan gwynne