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Group Exhibition
David Cunningham Projects
1928 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
November 12, 2009 - December 19, 2009

Goodbye Horses
by Chris Fitzpatrick

Jigsawmentallama is titled after an instrumental composition by the Virgin Prunes. And while different versions of the song exist, each alternate is defined by the same haunting atmospheric melody, which isn’t quite echoed in the works on display at DCP. Maybe the title is just homage, but the majority of works seem cut from a much brighter cloth. Still, if a bit confusing, Jigsawmentallama is a highly intriguing group exhibition, featuring works by an array of local favorites, including artists Margaret Tedesco and Keith Boadwee. Additional programming includes screenings of film and video works by Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, Kenneth Anger, and others.

It’s an eccentric lot and this is reflected in the works on display. To a certain extent, the chaotic layers of sound accompanying multiple videos resemble the overlapping textures of the Virgin Prunes’ song, but to walk into Jigsawmentallama is to overdose on “psychedelic” imagery. Although these works are most likely intended as ironic and parodical (or perhaps because of it), during the opening reception, I overheard one idle patron of the arts describe the show as a compendium of “freak-folk and wack-edelia.” Of course, it’s a very different experience with more time and less people, but some take serious issue with any art that might propagate the idea that the Bay Area is full of freaky hippies, regardless of where the artist is based.

Scott Hewicker, Dream TunnelIn that sense, I imagine the snub to be in response to Scott Hewicker’s technicolored paintings (and their transcendent titles, including Untitled (Portal), 2009, or Dream Tunnel, 2007), or Grant Worth’s projections in the front space, which fragment video into kaleidoscopic patterns (though his more subdued kaleidoscopic Polaroids are stunning). The fuss could also be about Toban Nichols’ digital prints; while containing a sharper, more computerized aesthetic, they’re actually more brightly hued than Hewicker’s. And so are a few hyperactive videos on monitors by Skye Thorstenson and another by Worth in the back hallway, incorporating a sort of dayglo mysticism.

However, two exceedingly strange videos provide the most gothic of viewers some shade—their varied darkness better supporting the title’s reference. In When I Was A Monster, a 1996 video by Anne McGuire, a naked woman in a Wassily chair makes strange uncomfortable faces while stretching her arm, neatly outfitted with stabilizing hardware, as if broken. To a detuned and slowed down soundtrack, she moves about in her seat until her muscles quiver. Gesturing as if driving a car, her movements bring to mind the late J.G. Ballard’s novel Crash, as well as the tics and twitches of your standard-issue meth addict (the drug’s toll on the mind, more than the high). What makes her video so bizarre is the naturalism of her oddity, which exponentially compounds how disturbed she behaves.

There’s something still more violent in Sonja Nilsson’s mixed media installation, Silence of the Lambs, 2008. Walking into a pitch-black room, as your eyes adjust to the darkness, a diorama built into the furthest black wall eventually becomes visible to the sound of Q Lazzarus’ 1988 pop song “Goodbye Horses.” Behind glass, the diorama contains a miniature dollhouse-sized replica of Buffalo Bill’s room in the 1991 film, Silence of the Lambs. It also contains a tiny hologrammatic video projection of the artist dancing in a sheer slip. When you get close enough to the glass, a bright flashbulb goes off behind the hologram, burning the image into your retina. The frozen figure is then doubled, with the dancing projection—seemingly clothed in this second image—lingering on for several minutes.

For packing in so many works, Jigsawmentallama is cleanly hung and well spaced. Several curious photographs by Tedesco appear throughout as a perplexing thread, eventually leading to an exceptionally raw and peculiar video by Austin McQuinn in a tiny backroom (a sort of fanciful procession of altered porcelain/simian figures in a tabletop landscape of plaster mounds). Whether annoyed by the way it sticks in your craw or enraptured to find it still crawling through your hypothalamus, Jigsawmentallama is something of a kaleidoscopic flashbulb itself. Bring sunglasses.

--Chris Fitzpatrick

(Images courtesy of the artists and DCP: Sonja Nilsson, Silence of the Lambs, 2008, Mixed Media Installation, Ed. 4; Scott Hewicker, Dream Tunnel , 2007, acrylic on canvas, 17" x 21")

Posted by Chris Fitzpatrick on 11/23/09 | tags: conceptual video-art mixed-media sculpture surrealism

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