Stuart Popejoy

LIVING ROOM: DUMBO ARTS UNDER THE BRIDGE FESTIVAL - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

 

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.


Stuart Popejoy
Brooklyn, New York
2002

 

Chris Johanson, "Now is Now", "Geodesic Dome/Space installation", acrylic on wood