Articles by

<Kathleen Massara>

09/28/11 4:00am

It’s a cold night, but inside Team Gallery it’s warm, packed with the young and hip, who clutch complimentary cans of Budweiser and wear beat-up Converse sneakers and Opening Ceremony jackets. It’s a silly word—hipsters—but the gallery is filled with them. They are here for the opening of Marc Hundley‘s first solo exhibition, Joan Baez is Alive (through October 29). The walls are filled with framed posters of concerts that never happened, mostly from outspoken and eccentric singers with strong vibratos. There’s nostalgia, longing, and an appreciation for the art of the stencil. In one poster, titled “Night in the City,” bursts of white from streetlights contain yellow text that reads: “light up, night time, and city light time.” Joni Mitchell’s name floats nearby to remind you of her hit song. In his artist’s statement, Hundley proclaims, “I generally make things that advertise the way I feel—or celebrate things I have chosen to have meaning.”

Hundley was born in 1971, five years after the Canadian songstress Buffy St. Marie released “Little Wheel Spin and Spin,” which is also cited in the show. Another poster quotes a few lines from the 6ths song “I’ve Got New York,” while in the main room a green Magnetic Fields-inspired faux concert ticket is framed and behind glass. It’s a throwback to another era, expressing nostalgia for the days when Soho was still gritty and ladies ruled the folk stage. But when you compare this work to that of someone like Masaru Aikawa, a Japanese artist who painstakingly recreated popular CD covers and liner notes in 2007, Hundley’s efforts seem incredibly half-assed. Simple stencils—not even silkscreens—are on sale for thousands of dollars at the gallery, evoking the boom times of yesteryear. But what are we nostalgic for, exactly? And is there even a “we” here? If not, one might as well just tour Hundley’s apartment or browse his scrapbooks.

This kind of art has been done before, and it’s nice for a minute to recognize the lyrics of a song you like or see an image of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence and pat yourself on the back for knowing about John Cassavetes, but there has to be more here. All that viewers are left with is a few lyrics under glass with no context, which is not enough to hold this exhibition together. We need to ask more from artists than that they blithely reference particular movies and songs, or else we easily become trapped in a facile self-referential loop. As Lou Reed once said, “I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.”

(Marc Hundley, “Little Wheel Spin and Spin..” 2011, courtesy the artist, Team Gallery)

08/03/11 4:00am

The Soft Machine, William Burroughs’ cut-up sci-fi novel about addiction and vice, urges us to “smash the control images” and “burn the books,” and the title of The Pace Gallery‘s summer exhibition Soft Machines (through August 26) alludes to the ideas contained in it, though the memorable pieces here are the ones that challenge rather than simply provoke.

For instance, Liz Magic Laser and Anna Ostoya‘s seven inkjet prints of blood smears in stores like Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Bloomingdale’s present what would otherwise be the hidden or dismissed traces of violence in public spaces. Another engagement with institutionalized violence can be found in Sterling Ruby‘s “Double Vampire 4” (2011) hanging on the back wall, a lumpy American flag-patterned diptych with thin lips and sagging bloody teeth; it’s mesmerizing in an ironic, Jasper Johns sort of way. Hanging from the rafters on the other side of the gallery is Tim Hawkinson‘s “Balloon Self-Portrait #4” (1996), a bloated white silicone form resembling a man, stuffed with urethane foam to keep the texture even. It rotates slowly in its naked state, with arms hanging in a grappling pose, as if ready for a fight or a casual embrace. I was tempted to poke it, just to hear it squeal. The didactic piece “Give Me The Night” (2011) by Lovett/Codagnone sits in the middle of the gallery, and though obvious in its reference to the gay club scene (a black painted leather disco ball hangs between three steel barricades, for chrissakes), the freedom to love whomever you’d like is still a contested issue in many places, so I won’t be too hard on it.

Unfortunately, the most interesting piece in the exhibition is already gone. During the opening reception, five female performance artists in yellow flower print dresses and matching wooden sandals tore apart a massive brown hunk of clay in Kate Gilmore‘s new performance piece, “Through the Claw” (2011). It began at 6pm and ended two and a quarter hours later as the performers wiped clay from their weary faces after scraping the last sticky remnants from the platform. Visiting the gallery now, one can’t help but notice the dried dung-like piles stuck to the back walls or piled in clumps on the floor surrounding the platform. Kenya (Robinson), who has performed Gilmore’s work multiple times, said of the performance: “I don’t feel like a martyr when I’m doing a Kate Gilmore piece. I feel more like Wile E. Coyote than Jesus Christ.”

There’s a self-aware absurdity to Gilmore’s work that isn’t present in early feminist pieces like Martha Rosler’s “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975), but is there in, say, Bruce Nauman’s early performance, “Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square” (1967-68). In all of Gilmore’s pieces struggle and repetition are used as metaphors for existence; we the audience want to see the performers conquer these obstacles, but know they might not be able to in the time allotted. It’s a race to the finish, and in “Through the Claw” the audience cheered as the performers heaved the last clay wedges toward the walls and quietly left the stage. We may be soft machines, but sometimes we still manage to destroy the objects and images that control us.

(Photo: G.R. Christmas, courtesy The Pace Gallery)

05/25/11 4:00am

Torben Giehler is jittery, uneasy. It's the opening of his fifth solo exhibition (through June 18) and Leo Koenig is crowded with Chelsea regulars: hip moms with SUV strollers, disheveled Europeans wearing scrunched up blazers, and gallery-hopping Brooklynites here for the free beer. In a 2005 New Yorker piece, Nick Paumgartner refers to Giehler as "a red-faced German whose shyness might be mistaken for hostility." But tonight, the artist makes an attempt to explain his work to me. It's hard, this selling of the self, and Giehler is admirably terrible at it.

The exhibition is inspired by and titled after Tool's 2001 prog-metal opus Lateralus, whose irregular time signatures are based on the Fibonacci sequence, in which numbers are added to their preceding terms, spiraling all the way to infinity. Giehler's abstract geometric paintings echo this concept by using repetitive arrangements of structured, linear forms, though he chose to create his own model rather than explicitly follow the mathematical sequence. "It's part of the process," he explains. "These all are based on this grid that I started with and they become sculptural, and created space." His paintings are taped off, with clean, triangulated shapes and glossy finishes. In "Wings for Marie," for instance, straight white, grey, and chartreuse lines connect ghostly lines underneath the surface, creating 3D gnomonic forms; it's architectonic, harmonious, and also quite beautiful.

Geometric art dates back to at least the Greeks, but the compositional principles found in Giehler's work can be traced to Piet Mondrian and his De Stijl contemporaries, with their use of simple geometric lines and primary colors. However, there's an unfinished quality to Giehler's work—a stray drip here, a thin brushstroke revealing the white of the canvas beneath the careful layers there. This creates a space for vulnerability in the paintings, which is also present in the album Lateralus. Both Tool and Giehler have attempted to produce objects of beautiful precision in spite of the limitations of their respective forms, though Giehler's work happily lacks the histrionics that can make the record particularly appealing to the adolescent set.

A few minutes into our interview an old man trundles over to Giehler and grabs his shoulder. The man's free hand makes wide circles in the air as he says in broken English, "I'm from Europe. I write about this." He then points to his head, saying, "It's…" His hand releases, making a gesture of an explosion. His mind is blown. Giehler nods politely, his icy blue eyes surveying the room. That was the point.

(Images courtesy the artist, Leo Koenig, Inc.)

04/27/11 4:00am

Alvin Baltrop was born in 1948 in the Bronx and came out at the tender age of 14; he was forced to navigate sexual minefields without much help from his family or peers, though in spite or of this neglect, he later served as a mentor to wayward queer youth. He lived in the East Village for much of his life, a tall, dashiki-wearing, cane-wielding man about town, though his work was rarely shown before his death from cancer in 2004. In the past few years, however, his photographs have been getting more attention, bolstered by a 2008 Artforum cover story. An exhibition of his work from 1965 to the year before his death is on view at Third Streaming in Soho (through May 28). Yona Backer is a founding partner of the space and the exhibition’s co-curator. “The work deserves to be seen,”she said, “particularly because he photographed a Downtown New York that no longer exists.”

Baltrop photographed the Hudson River piers in the 70s and 80s, at a time when they were abandoned by all but sunbathers and sexual outlaws. He documented Pier 52, where Gordon Matta-Clark sliced almond shapes into the walls and where David Wojnarowicz experimented with his drawings (along with the men who were looking for more than artwork). Lovers are captured between steel girders, standing naked near a window by a disintegrating wall, or relaxing in the sun. Some, like “Super Cream,”are formal portraits of a subject bathed in light, half his chest exposed and a hand resting near the cheek. It’s an update of Raphael’s “La fornarina” through a queer lens.

Baltrop’s rarely seen color and black-and-white photographs show men confronting the camera, while others are contemplative reconnaissance shots taken from afar. The images are remarkable: subjects glow, seductive apparitions of a patient photographer willing to wait hours for the right picture. The gallery’s rough floorboards and mottled paint lend the show an air of authenticity mimicking the coarse Downtown-ness of the piers. There’s a feeling of sexual liberty in these photos, coupled with a sense of dread and foreboding. Among the nudes is a photograph of a dredged-up corpse, partly shrouded, flanked by police officers armed with notepads. It’s a voyeuristic look at the reality of pier life turned grotesque: prostitutes raped and murdered, young gay and lesbian runaways taken advantage of, graffiti artists thriving, all while nude sunbathers relaxed on the white-hot pavement. And yet, as Baltrop’s former assistant and co-curator of the exhibition Randal Wilcox says in the trailer of the upcoming documentary on his mentor: “Once we were into the piers he wasn’t afraid at all.”

It’s too bad that Baltrop’s work is being recognized now, when he’s no longer with us to enjoy a little fame. He worked odd jobs for most of his life so he could devote himself to his art, and he watched his contemporaries achieve recognition while he was told his work was too “amateurish.”If we take the following passage to heart, the memory of the photographer and his subjects live on: In a photograph of an airy pier warehouse, the graffiti on the walls reads: “Take a copy/tell your friends/the truth about this place.”

(Images courtesy Third Streaming, copyright the Alvin Baltrop Trust)

03/30/11 4:00am

Walking up Greenwich Street, you’ll notice that Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is missing a few walls. Entering through the western edge of the gallery, you’re confronted with the word “FEAR” in large black capital letters spray-painted the length of the wall and, to the north, “EATS,” in the same misty spray-paint, thick in the middle with enough drips to keep it moderately sloppy and pleasing to those jaded by uniform typography. To the east, “THE SOUL” takes up two separate walls. (What would Fassbinder make of this use of his title?) The only objects in the vast room are wooden casement grids propped against a wall and a pile of dirt next to a metal lid with crude raised letters that read “the way things go.”

In the middle room, a deceptively genial man wearing an apron screen-prints white American Apparel t-shirts with slogans like “rich bastards beware” and “behold your future executioners.” Stacks of different sizes advertising “fear eats the soul” are ready for purchase at $20 a pop. In the adjoining kitchen space, the performance artist Rirkrit Tiravanija serves spicy pumpkin soup for the suggested price of one dollar (through April 16). He washes dishes at the industrial chrome sink and greets the occasional newcomer, treating the space as an extension of his home. He seems at ease in the role of provider, perhaps because he’s done this before (in 1992, and then again in 2007).

What he’s doing here falls under the conceptual rubric of “relational aesthetics,” whereby an artwork is open-ended, interactive and democratic. But are enough and sufficiently meaningful interactions occurring to sustain this third performance of Tiravanija’s “Soupnosoup”? In a recent review, art critic Jerry Saltz applauded the piece’s “selflessness.” While it’s true that the openness of the space mostly does away with any public-private distinction, it seems a stretch to call the exhibition selfless. Serving soup to an art crowd hardly qualifies as shaking things up, especially as this type of artwork has been firmly ensconced in the contemporary art canon for well over a decade—perhaps even since 1971, when Gordon Matta-Clark opened the artist-run restaurant Food in Soho.

Chez Tiravanija, the onus is on the viewer to make the experience worthwhile. The relational artist’s job is to bring people together in a space with as few boundaries as possible. On March 16, appropriately, artists Patricia Silva and Eric Clinton Anderson took matters into their own hands when they saw that a car was parked inside the wide-open gallery with keys in the ignition. Taking this as a sign that they were free to take it for a spin, the pair drove around for less than a half hour, then returned to the gallery. Gavin Brown was outside, fuming, thinking his car had been stolen. He later told Saltz, “I suppose in some sense I set up the situation. So I’ve nothing to complain about.” He continued, “But if someone really wanted to do something like this, they should have taken the car for a week, or driven it off the pier.” Maybe next time; for now, though, we’ll enjoy our soup with the art crowd.

(photos by Glori Linares, courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise)

03/02/11 4:00am

Parting the rough gray curtain at Mary Boone Gallery, I entered a large white room containing a gigantic pile of salt. Two middle-aged women were standing halfway across the room, near the crystalline mound. One urgently waved me toward her, whispering,”You can’t miss it!” We watched the artist Terence Koh, dressed in white and on his knees, methodically shuffling forward along the perimeter of the pile, his arms stiff at his sides. At irregular intervals Koh would lie facedown, extending his body in a perfect line. With his shorn head, blank gaze, and austere attire, he resembled a monk going through his daily ritual. A camera mounted in the rafters took a picture every sixteen seconds, documenting the exhibition and capturing the precision involved in “nothingtoodoo,” the artist’s new performance (through March 19). Is Koh, who once described himself as”the Naomi Campbell of the art world,” suddenly developing some dignity?

Before the exhibition began, Koh offered a concise, handwritten note explaining this undertaking with statements like”peace iz non-violence” and”peace iz nothingtoodoo,” which is maddening, if not downright insulting. The art itself is worth experiencing, even if the rhetoric behind it makes you want to throttle the self-described”Asianpunkboy.” The piece could even be a revision of the tale of Lot’s wife: we look upon the artist without turning into another pillar of salt (unless I’m wrong, and the first unlucky gallery-goer became the current mound).

In 2008, Koh was “Captain Buddha,” conducting a search for enlightenment at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. At Mary Boone three years later, he creates another state of meditative absorption. There’s something very beautiful happening here, as the artist quietly prostrates himself alongside this elemental material. He doesn’t worship it, but acknowledges its power over the space even as people queue up to see a famous artist on his knees. There’s nobility in this silent offering; it lacks any mischievous tricks, an interesting turn of events for an artist who previously plated his own feces in gold and sold it to the highest bidder. After the Dionysian excess of his previous work comes a sober piece based on a denial of the self. Perhaps he’s taken cues from his friend Marina Abramovic, or studied other disciplined performance artists like Tehching Hsieh. Either way,”nothingtoodoo” is the opposite of an exhibition like White Cubicle Toilet Gallery’s”Temple of the Golden Piss” (2005), where Koh covered the bathroom walls of the George and Dragon Public House in London with mottled bits of gold and hung an upside-down cross from the door. In”nothingtoodoo,” Koh begins and ends with salt in a white room. It is an aesthete’s vision of asceticism, perhaps, but at least it’s an attempt at evolution.

(Images courtesy the artist, Mary Boone Gallery)

02/16/11 2:30am

A barter economy is often viewed as a utopian idea—it’s something you find at Burning Man rather than at a gallery or store because it subverts our expectations of the market when we’re asked to quantify what our time and efforts are worth without falling back on hard currency. In the art world, the idea of bartering has become increasingly difficult to envision, as pieces by famous or even rising artists seem predestined to an exclusive group of collectors and institutions with considerable coffers. However, there are instances throughout modern history of artists upending this system, from Picasso allegedly trading art for meals to residents of the Chelsea Hotel offering Stanley Bard paintings as rent.

Two years ago, Lauren Jones and Alix Janta started Art Barter in London as a response to the hermetic art market, and last December, NP Contemporary Art Center hosted a stateside version of Art Barter on the Lower East Side, where each piece was stripped of the artist’s name and assigned a bidding number. Participants in the exchange offered items like three days in a Catskills farmhouse, Spanish lessons, or your weight in organic chocolate.

Now Cabinet is co-hosting An Exchange with Sol LeWitt (through March 6), curated by Regine Basha, which is the counterpart to an exhibition at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. LeWitt was a committed barterer throughout his life, trading with established and unkown artists alike. In a 1977 interview LeWitt said, “The artist is seen like a producer of commodities, like a factory that turns out refrigerators.” His response to the commercialism of the modern art world was to support the creation of art regardless of background qualifications. With this in mind, Basha conducted an open call for pieces that support an exchange of ideas with the deceased artist. She received over a thousand submissions, and around 200 are now on view at Cabinet, from hatched chocolate bars inspired by LeWitt’s line drawings to Manuel Sosa’s glass bottle filled with strips of instructions. The highlight is Steve Roden‘s playable 7″ record based on LeWitt’s Three-Part Variations series. Roden mapped out the design on the neck of his guitar and recorded the patterns he found through this process. A handwritten note above the record player explains his approach: “I tried to follow the notes with my voice. Sometimes I hit it and sometimes I didn’t.” The noise marks a welcome addition to the quiet exhibition space. When the record was through, a friend wandered over to Kristin Nyce’s interactive piece and began pressing buttons on the multi-sided noisemaker, which is painted a stark white. It bleeped a combination of notes and complemented the skipped hisses of the needle as it reached the end of the record. A few feet away, there was a postcard from 1979 addressed to Gorav Dordevic, a Yugoslav artist who was planning an artists’ strike at the time. LeWitt’s brief, but earnest advice made tangible the idea that, under the right conditions, art can be revolutionary. He wrote: “I will support you and your strike if you show me how it would work.”

This exhibition shows that participating in more open systems of exchange lessens the gap between artists, audiences and collectors, especially when viewers and collectors become creators themselves. Trade deflates the ego and changes the game by creating a space for all who are interested to take a chance on the unknown. It might not be popular or even feasible to think of regularly bartering for art in these times, but it’s worth considering, if only to honor LeWitt’s legacy.

(images: Alicia Bonilla-Puig; Jackie McAllister, photo by Jaime Permuth; courtesy Cabinet)

01/19/11 4:00am

At Nicholas Robinson Gallery, Miguel Palma‘s gigantic mixed-media installation holds court to the left of the entrance. It’s a curious bricolage of plastic items mounted on a rotating surface, and features toys of a bygone era. Perhaps “toys” is the wrong word, though, because the objects on display are both absurd and, ultimately, menacing. A plastic soldier in fatigues holds a radioactive-yellow level, an astronaut floats above a skeleton, a prisoner stares at a translucent ball with a snake inside, row houses balance on meager supports, and Superwoman grasps two bombs as a fighter jet is suspended in flight overhead. The disk turns slowly, taking about an hour per revolution.

There’s a surveillance camera mounted on the fighter jet filming the scene below. Though there aren’t any signs guiding you, head for the basement; here you’ll find the video projected on a lone wall. Down there, Palma turns to me and says that these images are more real than the terraformed piece in the entrance. He begins to lose the thread of his thoughts, and, in a moment of inspiration, waves his hands in the air, referring to the sculpture as “this tutti-frutti thing.”

Palma was five years old when Neil Armstrong took his “small step” on the moon, and the gallery contains the artist’s neatly arranged collections from this era of space exploration, when great leaps in technology made for a vast array of militarized boys’ toys. In another corner a large yellow tube is fixed to a screen, inches away from the nose of a model of an Airbus A380 (which has been enthusiastically referred to as “The Mother of All Airplanes!”). At irregular intervals the vacuum tube sucks air through the screen, creating a dusty corona at its center while the plane rotates 360 degrees.

In an era of expansive technological gains and dwindling engineering expertise, there is a fraught relationship between these mechanized objects and the people for whom they are purportedly created. There is also an obvious gap between knowledge and use; for instance, the Airbus can hold over 600 passengers, most of whom have absolutely no idea how it works. Palma challenges our era of specialization with his incessant curiosity about technology. In the early 90s, he worked with a team of engineers to build a car, viewing it as “a challenge.” “I want to learn, to discover,” Palma said, “to be a pioneer, which is a romantic way of viewing it, I know. That’s the way I started working in the beginning.”

Baudrillard wrote that the “ecstasy of information” was simulation; the image becomes more real than the experience. Palma’s In Image We Trust (through February 12) presents the audience with this modern quandary, where we are spectators rather than participants in modern life, rapidly consuming the advances in science and engineering without thinking about the serious repercussions of our passivity.

(photo credit: Nicholas Robinson Gallery)

12/22/10 4:00am

Claudio Edinger shoots with a large-format 4’x5′ Sinar camera using a technique known as selective focus, or “tilt-shift.” Sinar is an acronym for Studio, Industry, Nature, Architecture, Reproduction, and it’s not a coincidence that the Brazilian photographer chose a camera normally used for architectural photography to create the distorted images of his hometown now on view at 1500 Gallery (through March 26). By shifting the location of the negative in the camera, Edinger is able to create a concentrated area of focus in an otherwise blurred landscape. Through this displacement, the viewer is removed from the scene, as one might casually view a model reproduction of a city, or observe a patch of ground while floating over the residents of an ordered urban jungle. There’s a feeling of isolated omnipotence, of being not in the scene, but above or beyond it.

Edinger was one of the purveyors of this technique, along with Olivo Barbieri, though today anyone can use Lens Blur Interface in Photoshop to create a similar “miniature faking” effect. However, Edinger uses this technique not as a camera trick, but to make a statement about our inner lives. In an email, Edinger writes, “I am after universal images that come from deep inside us–inside our collective unconscious–and help us reflect on the way we live, our needs, [and] our absurd loneliness.”

Andrew S. Klug founded 1500 Gallery with his partner, Alexandre Bueno de Moraes, earlier this year in Chelsea. They began working with Edinger three months ago, though they’ve been fans of his photography for a long time. In a telephone interview, Klug said, “São Paulo is a city of wide contrasts and contradictions and he’s expressing that visually.” Oscar Niemeyer‘s distinctive modernist structures make an appearance, as do the last remaining bit of rain forest in central São Paulo, a forlorn couch under a graffiti-covered expressway, and illuminated panels on the ceiling of one of the city’s famous cathedrals. There are lush, immaculate gardens populated by statues rather than people, and wide streets where a thin strip of arches competes with the minuscule denizens of the largest city in Brazil. It’s a jarring experience to wander through the gallery and attempt to take it all in; you can’t help but feel transported by the hazy, shifting foreground, as if you were a glaucomatous deity who temporarily lost its bearings.

Edinger writes, “What we see outside is just a pretext for unraveling the biggest mystery in the world: who we are.” The twelve images at the gallery present more than merely a city out of focus: they show us the strangeness of modernity. We are used to seeing the human scale of a city, but Edinger’s photographs urge us to look beyond the street level and see how the wealthy metropolis functions, albeit from an aestheticized distance. The grit and poverty are removed, but gridlocked traffic, modernist architecture, and luxuriant vegetation remain. Blocky concrete apartment buildings nudge their way into Ibirapuera Park, while a few feet away, commuters move through the train station at a frenetic pace. If one of them stopped in the middle of the station, perhaps they might have seen a man crouched over a large camera, observing it all.

(images courtesy Claudio Edinger, 1500 Gallery)

11/24/10 4:00am

Allison Read Smith’s large black rubber frog hangs limply from a wall at Pandemic Gallery. It’s sewn together with heavy clear stitches, but it looks almost stapled from farther away. “Frog Prince” has one entreating hand open and a mouth curved in an open smirk. Nine crowns float above his head, while a tenth sits atop an adjacent print of a large stork framed under glass (“Marabou”).

Richie Lasansky and Allison Read Smith have known each other for more than a decade, but Sew Draw (through December 10) is the first time they’ve exhibited their work together. Both are transplants to New York: Lasansky was born in Bolivia, the son of two members of the Peace Corps; Smith was born and raised in Memphis. Both are from families of working artists, and seem grateful for this fact. Lasansky never went to art school, though he did do an eight-year apprenticeship with his grandfather, Mauricio, who exhibited his work at the Whitney in the late 60s, among other renowned venues. Here, Lasansky learned how to make his own ink and master the medium.

Lasansky works with intaglio prints and large-scale pencil drawings, while Smith creates sculptures from salvaged materials. Intaglio is a technique wherein an image is etched into copper plates and the ink sinks into the grooves, showing up on the paper when it’s pressed. “You tell someone you’re a printmaker these days,”Lasansky says, “and people ask, ‘Oh, where do you have your work printed?’ And that’s when I stamp my feet… It’s not just conceptual, it’s a physical act.”
Though craft is important for both artists, they acknowledge the importance of content. Lasansky’s work is expressive and mischievous, while both artists described Smith’s work as “goofy.”Smith says, “The humor in my work is something I’m incredibly serious about; that’s very much a Southern [thing].”

There is a waggish narrative to the exhibition; animals play dead, devour small children, or stare directly at the viewer in a stiff pose that seems almost human. This tongue-in-cheek dynamic is also apparent in the pair’s curatorial decisions; Smith’s work hangs from clips or lies on the floor, while Lasansky’s pieces are arranged more conventionally. Through these two approaches, the traditional gallery setting is upended.

“It was a really fun show to install,”Smith says, “because we allowed ourselves to be silly about it, not ‘You get this side, I’ll take this side.’ It’s why you have a conversation—because it gets you to a point where you couldn’t get to alone.”

Despite working in different media, these two artists were able to create a space at Pandemic that strengthens their existing work while challenging viewers to generate their own narratives from pieces steeped in magical realism or rooted in Southern Gothic lore.

(images courtesy the artists, Pandemic Gallery)