Yesterday TrustoCorp—that shadowy organization known for putting up derisive signs, products, magazines, monuments and businesses all around town—opened its first gallery show in a couple years at Opera Gallery in Soho. The exhibition, titled Life Cycle and on view through November 11, features a few familiar works but mostly brand new pieces, with foods and games being the dominant formats for the groups searing satire.
While adopting the appearance of vintage advertising and product design, the works on view attack contemporary greed in ways both funny and, sometimes, powerfully blunt. A fake board game called “The Game of Life in Prison,” for instance, undercuts its tone of kistchy Americana with brutal directions like “Forced to join a gang, skip 3 years,” and “You’re a minority, go back 2 years.” A spinning wheel game called “How Will You Die” offers potential end-life scenarios, including “morbid obesity,” “zombie apocalypse” and “old age.”
In addition to the games—a whole project room is devoted to vintage arcade games like “Riot Cop” and “Seal Team 6″—the collective premieres a set of new parody products like cereals “Smore War,” “Beaties” and “Choco Spills.” For each, the space on a cereal box normally reserved for nutritional information sports pertinent lists: the profits of companies rebuilding countries where America is pursuing wars, the names of known victims of police brutality, and the largest oil spills.
Throughout, this mix of the group’s trademark humor—an intense sarcasm that can easily spill over into smirking nihilism—and grim, statistical research gives an impassioned and surprisingly dire edge to the parody Americana. This is most evident in “Botched Operation,” a pun on the popular game “Operation,” in which each of the items to be removed from the life-sized skeleton is a disturbing factoid about the American healthcare industry. One piece in the shape of a knife near the figure’s throat reads “Cut throat insurance policies (60% of personal bankruptcies in America are due to medical debt).”
Though the group doesn’t exactly offer solutions—aside from a few allusions to the Occupy Wall Street protests—it packages a prevailing sense of outrage and exhausted patience in symbols of nostalgic Americana.