David Melrose, You Can Take It With You When You Go.
The media is focusing on the state of the environment at long last, no small thanks to Al Gore. In step with this, Arcadia, a show of 13 photos, one DVD and a sculpture, centers on the outdoors and humankind’s harmonious interaction with it. Justine Kurland’s color print of naked women (Mother Nature figures?) and tender toddlers in a forest clearing is utopian, as is the impossibly ideal cottage in David Spero’s Tir Ysbrydol (Spiritual Land). On the flip side of this natural serenity is David Hilliard’s multipanelled panorama of the fake flower aisle in Wal-Mart, which bursts with exuberant false blossoms. David Melrose’s trickling fountain in a wheelbarrow, titled You Can Take It With You When You Go (A Portable Meditation Garden for Nomadic Living) is amusingly untrue to its name: the bright orange extension cord that powers the contraption tethers it to the wall. Arcadia joins today’s nature-conscious climate without directly plucking at our tender global-warming-sensitive heartstrings. Instead, the show is an earnest celebration of people in the natural world. Notably absent is the massive destruction our abuses have wrought on the Earth. Perhaps this is just the happy inspiration we need to protect the idyllic settings we haven’t yet lost.
Men I-20 Through Aug 18
Art’s traditional male-on-female gaze has been reversed in this show of ten paintings of men by women, curated by artist Ellen Altfest. The painters don’t consistently portray the opposite sex as demure nudes (the way centuries’ worth of men depicted women) but rather with a variety of attitudes ranging from mocking to worshipful. In the portrait Josh, Marina Kappos censors the cocky, ironic expression on her subject’s face with two strips of electrical tape painted where his mouth should be. In Clare Rojas’ large acrylic panels, men with raging erections engage in a fist fight while a woman looks on, her head thrown back with hysterical laughter. In contrast to these two instances of apparent reproach, Catherine Murphy’s larger-than-life photorealistic rendering of her husband’s nipple (a most useless element of the male anatomy) is executed with loving care, and Ellen Altfest’s “still life” of a flaccid penis resting between the hairy thighs of its owner on a paint-splattered stool is at the very least respectful in its truthfulness. A letter of protest sent by Nicole Eisenman and A.L. Steiner of Ridykeulous is included in the show’s catalogue. It reads, “Oh great. Gross. Another show about men.” They may have a point — “Isn’t everything about men?” they ask. But what Ridykeulous fails to anticipate is the way in which this collection of works leaves the viewer thinking not about the men in the pictures but rather the women who created them.