Apparently glue-gun glue comes in a variety of colors, ranging from bark brown to neon green. I know this because I probably saw the range of available stock appear within Dave Choi’s monster sculptures at Hogar Collection. By layering hot glue over wire mesh and expandable foam, a green worm-like creature with plastic fur wraps itself around a tree, a pinkish horny beast humps the leg of a mannequin, and a multicolored animal with numerous heads opens all its mouths at once.
While none of these characters appears overly frightening — their viciousness more a parody of extreme thirst than aggression — they represent the seedy underbelly of the American psyche. Evoking Charlie White’s Understanding Joshua, 2001, a photographic series using an alien to represent male self loathing, Choi’s Littleman similarly literalizes cast-off feelings we don’t act upon. Clinging desperately to a pair of mannequin legs, as if he might at any moment lose the woman, the sculpture speaks to a culture with an unquenchable desire for sex, the synthetic and anything remotely feminine.
While such hunger may not necessarily represent the malevolencethat bared teeth and drool typically suggest, the subject of morality isn’t entirely avoided either. Aptly, in Untitled (Tree Dragon) a snake wraps itself around a tree with fiber-optic fruit, eliminating any temptation to harvest its plastic bounties. In this landscape, if the Garden of Eden ever existed, it has long been taken over by manmade materials and animals with oversized eyes and mouths. The result might make a viewer laugh, but it should also be reason for some reflection. After all, every common material Choi gets his hands on seems to mutate into some kind of ravenous creature.
Working with a similar sensibility, Michael Behle, who shares the exhibition space with Choi, adds a number of small wall-mounted works to the show. A bizarre floating head topped by a drippy rainbow hangs across from Tree Dragon, while nearby a woman in a business suit has her head obscured by five glossy brush strokes resembling a hat. On the whole, the pieces don’t make a lot of narrative sense but, much like Choi’s work, represent a humorous and uneasy response to the culture of daily life in America. Many of the works seem to have a cynical take on popular self-help lifestyles, a not uncommon position among east coast artists. Other figurative works suggest being pulled or reaching for something unseen or out of sight.
While Behle’s work relies on humor less than Choi’s, it’s hard not to remark on the absurdity of half-formed figures turning into a ball of string, or rainbows beautifully crowning a decapitated head. The comical approach of both artists may be a very effective means of grabbing people’s attention, but it also frequently represents a method of coping without investment. The success of these works lies not in their humor but in their ability to critically engage and respond to American culture.