Monday, July 26, 2010
Vox VI is the sixth edition of Vox’s summer exhibition of emerging artists. William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton served as the jurors, selecting a high concentration of artists from the Philadelphia region as well as New York and New Jersey. The event can be viewed as something of an annual barometer to the emerging or dominant trends and tastes that cycle through local creative communities. In the curation and installation of the show, each of the galleries at Vox has been used to a distinct effect, creating five separate clusters of work that synergize around a leitmotif. These are not stated or outward themes, but the ones that I have perceived.
The lobby gallery had a cheekiness to it. Clint Baclawski’s large, floor-bound lightboxes are either making fun of the subject of the photographs—an inflatable Titanic/iceberg playground in a gym and corporate logo emblazoned promo tents at the foot of a ski slope—or the boxes themselves are meant as a gag. On the wall just above them, Joshua Weibley’s Untitled (You Make Kitty Scared), takes on LOLcats and other viral internet memes, using an impressive ink on paper technique to imitate by hand the printout of a grainy photocopy or an inkjet printer on the fritz. Nothing Could Drag Me Away from the Soft Glow of Electric Sex in the Window by Sanford Mirling, alludes to Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story, which for me inspired dread at the Turner television networks’ nonstop marathons of the film during the winter holidays. Then there were Deyra Atlan’s gaudily decorated box traps: she is hunting a monster, apparently a chain-smoker with a weakness for whiskey (the bait used). As for Amber DuBois's Pop Off, just the title is funny, mostly for this reason (thank you to Joel McHale and The Soup!).
Gallery one evoked a science fiction tinged, 1950s vision of things to come. In another piece, Joshua Weibley creates a Flintstones version of a desktop computer, with a stone for a mouse. Megan Hays Selever Rex uses bright orange extension cord as totem to electronics. Manuel Pena’s photograph with Rock Hudson’s face pasted over a modern day sitter reminded me of his underappreciated paranoid, plastic surgery thriller Seconds. Aidan Rumack built fluorescent tube prison cells to enshrine a taxidermy bird and a spacecraft fashioned from an ostrich eggshell. Sheila Whitsett contributed a mirrored monolith, and a Superman ice “Fortress of Solitude” reminiscent pile of crystals and instant snow. There is also Matt Kalasky’s video of a helmeted space commander, Katelyn Greth’s genetic mutant hybrids Sheep Boy and Dog Boy, and Nora Salzman’s android-like replicas (or replicants?).
Gallery two was pop fun. The entire tone of the room is punctuated by Piper Brett’s Large Bow, imparting a celebratory jubilance. I also thought a bit about her Phone Number—is it an exultation of the numbers, phones or telecommunications in general, or is it some kind of longing portrait of the person on the other end of the phone line? Joshua Bienko provides entertainment in the form of his art raps, which are clever and insidery, harnessing the supersaturated braggadocio of hip-hop videos, but almost bordering on a too-cool-for-school act that’s more self-serious than it is ironic. I preferred his Ever So Much More pieces, where he painted iconic works of Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor on the rouge soles of Louboutins, a more definitive comment on the current state of pop art. Rounding out the feel of the gallery: Dustin Metz’s Warhol-appropriating paintings; Diedra Krieger’s woozy infomercial shorts; and Kelli Miller’s dizzying computer wallpapers of animated gifs.
Gallery Three looked into the past. Lacuna Shadows by Lauren Dombrowiak dominates the space. The stacked china set against a patch of richly patterned wallpaper and carpeting, feels positively Victorian for its choice of found object. Sarah Knouse’s drippy, melted lawn flamingos suggest a burning effigy to icons of suburban kitsch. The small porcelain figurines of Janet Macpherson are presented as if medieval artifacts coming from an off-kilter fairytale land. And Susan Marie Brundage’s works on paper offer a weird, mystical take on life in rural America. I will lump Constanze Pirch’s hallway installation into this lot, because she has other smaller paintings in the gallery.
Finally, gallery four in the back gives off the whiff of depression and decay. Jordan Griska’s deflated accordion of a vintage gas pump deconstructs king oil and pairs appropriately with Samantha Simmons’ charcoal treatments of the undercarriages of cars. Catelynn Booth examines the underside of a bridge with what looks like a construction tarp tearing away. Lindsay Foster’s video Father Lover Friend is road trip that meanders an ambiguous path through emotionally wrenching territory. Dustin Metz paints the abandoned interior of the restaurant Que Chula Es Puebla, with an odd pigment-splattered table set for dinner, but not a human in sight (save for a floating hand).
I would be remiss if I did not mention Jennifer Campbell’s work in the video lounge, not technically part of Vox VI. In Eruption, she creates the illusion of Mt. Rainier as a reawakened volcano, holding a smoke-spewing tube in the foreground. Precipitate shows two figures suspended from trees who perform acrobatics while hoses attached to their faces spurt jets of water.