Visual Arts > Visual Arts
Easing into 2010
Fl!ght keeps it casual
Let’s start off the new year with a bang. Or alternatively, we could just ease into it. That would be more casual, so the show 2010 at Fl!ght Gallery goes that route. Showcasing individual works by 20 local artists is pretty standard fare, and based on the work presented, the new year should look pretty much like the last one. A collection of painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, video, and sound fill the space as disparate items — a compilation of the mash-ups culled together with the miscellany that has been accumulating for a while now.
Lack of cohesion is always a danger in a group show; in this case, however, it offered me a chance to play “know your local artists by the work they make.” Seeing the art without the usual accompanying wall texts did give me a chance to absorb the works’ content briefly without the hang-up of “who made it,” but it didn’t take long to put names to the objects on display. The price list confirmed some of my guesses. This five-minute identification exercise illustrates a phenomenon in which artists obtain a signature style, then hold to it so steadfastly that they sometimes exhaust its potential.
There are some highlights amid the clutter. Kelly O’Connor’s “THE LAST DAY (of the rest of my life)” is a step in the right direction. O’Connor adds spice to her usual syrupy-sweet blend of collage — new imagery and altered motifs push her constructed vignettes into more fertile ground and, perhaps, a more palatable fantasy.
Kimberly Aubuchon’s colorful drawings (a series of 10, called “The first 10 of 2010”) are delightfully wacky. There has to be some deep meaning lurking within Aubuchon’s playful gestures, but I don’t know what it is — so they must be good.
Jason Jay Stevens’s sound-emitting wall sculpture, “Secrets Transmit Through Baryonic Matter,” is simple and subtle. A white disc of concentric waves acts both as a structure for escaping sound and a self-referential symbol of the way sound travels. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of his works, the sound element is almost inaudible in a space with a talking crowd. In addition to silence, Stevens’s work demands room and isolation, and I’d like to see it presented in a more polished situation.
I like a challenge, and (occasional Current contributor) Jeremiah Teutsch offers one; his “Museum Pun II” is a collection of objects presented in a museum-like, wall-mounted display case. The enclosed artifacts include a pair of funeral-wake photo reproductions, an assortment of eggs, and a fabricated Francis Bacon death mask. This sort of encoding interests me; I prefer work with something to it. The cultural referent is more effective when it is found within the work, unlike Pop, which operates on the premise of blunt-force humor. The endpoint for Teutsch’s 2010 piece may also be deadpan humor, but his presentation makes for an enjoyable experience getting there, however short the distance.
Hills Snyder’s “2010, Year of the Hobby Horse,” for instance, is both good to look at and steeped in oblique references. Three photographs of smiling objects and seemingly unrelated wall text emphasize Snyder’s dense and tilted humor. Unrelenting negations of sentimentality coupled with subtle tricks to confuse the unconcerned observer have proven to be effective tools for him. Teutsch and Snyder, along with Aubuchon, have a knack for wry distortion, warping the represented into something unmanageable — unless you have your thinking cap on.
The jumbled nature of this show brings to mind something I have been thinking about a lot lately: our collage culture. Almost half a century of postmodern thinking about inclusion and restructuring has left us with what? Modes of living and production based on sticking stuff together, layering, altering preexisting entities to make something only nominally new, and certainly not all that different. In light of the material and theoretical advances of the previous century, the feasibility of making something completely new is slim at best. So what must we do? Exhaust the styles we have? Re-represent what we missed the first time around? It’s a new decade: Stop dwelling sentimentally on the past (instead, critically assess it) and process the present in a more experimental mode. Work now in anticipation of the future. Make something new out of something. •
Chad Dawkins is an artist and critic based in San Antonio.