LIVING ROOM: DUMBO ARTS UNDER THE BRIDGE FESTIVAL - BROOKLYN, NEW
Chris Johanson, "Now Is Now", Installation view
Walking into the Living Room show was disorienting for many of its wandering
visitors. Deceived by the false yellow walls, fake-wood flooring, and
dilapidated furniture, viewers sometimes wondered if someone had converted
their apartment, and would they be returning after the show completes?
Bolstered by a number of strong offerings from the show's emerging artists,
the messy domesticity suggested by the room's layout succeeded in re-contextualizing
visual art as dorm-room detritus. Next to painting and sculpture were
re-decorated condom containers, defaced children's books, and abstractly-embroidered
pillows. So successful was this effect that non-reappropriated items such
as the furniture, or the blue Mets bong featured prominently on a coffee
table, were somewhat of a disappointment. Nonetheless, the show was an
impressive and cohesive debut for curator Mark George.
Another common reaction by visitors was a reluctance to step over the
boundary, created by a line of molding securing the false flooring, into
the half of the studio space that was the room proper: visitors
would often need encouragement to make the leap. Justin Samson's Threshold
directed entrance inward with two bars, one turquoise, one orange, breaching
the molding perpendicularly with bold color to simultaneously threaten
and order, the familiar signals of domesticity emanating from the room.
Immediately to the left of the Threshold was what appeared
to be a door, but was instead a doorknob-less installation by Todd Bura,
Untitled. Five inset golf-ball-sized concavities in a symmetrical
wing formation presented strangely evocative lint mini-sculptures,
drawing the viewer into their miniature complexity, while repelling with
the formal Minimalism of the defunct door's white plane.
Other works similarly projected images fitting of the sloppy interior,
that broadened Conceptually upon investigation. Alina Tenser's Cold
Cuts appeared as no more than shrink-wrapped meat slices casually
left on the dinette. Closer investigation revealed meat-inlaid logos of
various New York grocery chains, perhaps underscoring the relation of
processed food, to the logistics and branding of its delivery and consumption.
Not everything in the show sought to bolster verisimilitude, instead exploding
or imploding the spatial logic of the room. Gloria Houng's diorama Fred's
Place, presented, in miniature, a small claustrophobic interior
of yellow pattern wallpaper and doll-house furniture. In it, themes of
dismemberment and dislocation-a pig's head, mounted on a dinner table,
contemplates a diagram of beef cuts, while pig hindquarters jut out of
the opposite wall, like a mounted trophy-served to disturb the comfortable
symbolism of the larger, exterior room. Carlos Carillo's Plants,
suggesting both lamps and houseplants, were snaky structures climbing
out of terra cotta pots to emit light. Small aerial photographs, transferred
onto the lucite surfaces of the lamps, depicted vast tracts of identical
suburban homes, implying the near-infinite iteration of the intimate middle-class
imagery surrounding the sculptures.
Other works offered humor and formal play, such as videotapes with Oneil
Edwards' video works, placed on the dinette next to Cold Cut.
The lurid labels Hot Girl-On-Girl Inaction misled the viewer
as to the true content: cool, contemplative visual distortions and interferences
heated by an abrasive and aggressive soundtrack. Works like these added
diversity to a surprisingly coherent and powerful group show, one that
succeeded in re-imagining the most common of domestic spaces.
Brooklyn, New York
Chris Johanson, "Now is Now", "Geodesic Dome/Space installation",
acrylic on wood