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San Francisco
Group Exhibition
610 16th Street Ste 420, Oakland, CA 94612
December 12, 2008 - January 18, 2009

A Breathalyzer of Fresh Air
by Andy Ritchie




Another elegant product of 20th century office architecture. I couldn’t fight the sarcasm after tripping over stairs just a step inside the buzzing security door. This unlikely art domicile boasts old wood paneling, humming fluorescents overhead, metallic crucifixes and, as anywhere else, Obama stickers. I half-expected to leave with a bail bond. But it’s exactly this shantytown-like intersect of interests that gives Maniac Gallery an unstable, guerrilla context. This fringe lawlessness bleeds into the current show’s title, D.U.I. Purists might note that it’s Drawing Under the Influence, not the other, but come on; it still baldly references every suburban drinker’s (and senator’s) plight. Factor in the jail-bar-striped far corner of the gallery, laid out as a curatorial aid by Petra Bibeau, and you have a de facto theme.

Of course, my interpretation just steamrolled Petra’s very intent, so allow me to recant. D.U.I. is a premise based on shows at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York entitled Drunk vs. Stoned. The “drawing” refers loosely to the early visual formation of ideas under the influence of chemicals, or any other pervasive external source. No constraints or controls were rigorously imposed, but enough of an initial idea was laid to launch all-new work specific to this show—Petraglyphs, you might call them. The result is a surprising amount of one-off oddities within the artists’ canons. Five individuals and one duo comprise the roster of D.U.I., whose work is mercifully clustered by artist to somewhat rein in the hyperactivity.

I started my meander instinctively, taking the three-step journey to the far wall of jail bars, where I met Lauren Barcelon’s work, a three-piece suite. Each composition is a contained, legible black silhouette drawn inside an unbounded circle on a white square of paper. It’s a monocular peering (leering?) at an idyll of nymph and wooden wilds—until you learn that nymph could be America’s Next Top Model. Central Park never seemed so fantastical. Incised from the TV show’s promotional advertising, the woman with billowing dress and blowing hair now merges with deltas of wandering branches that more resemble Petri than Prada. Achieved by a visibly labored scrubbing of the white space between outlines, each silhouette creates a backlit, sunset scenario, drumming up omens of ill prospects.

Erin Allen, whose work was spotlighted in Maniac’s previous solo show, brings an abridged version of the same dicey ruckus. On the floor a sheet of paper leans, curled under the force of its muddied toppings, a fusion of David Park's abstract energy and the mystery of the No-Face Zombie. Scratched into this featureless morass is the script, “Dear Rodia, do you like to party?” seemingly a case of willful beer goggles. Leaned on the floor? I meant slumped. Allen presents more than just an insoluble drunken mess though. The intricate lines of hot glue webs over construction paper fragments in Limited D, black-sprayed and shifted, are a conjunction of stained glass and Addams Family decor. So far and yet so near is Allen’s hilarious landscape, a spiral squirt of brown paint tapering up to create a sienna tree amongst green Sierra. I’ve maybe never seen a whole tube of paint laid out so lovingly.

Leaning near Allen’s work (perhaps the same party’s aftermath) is the creation from Nightmare City. There’ll be no mistaken identity though: NC mark their territory with fluorescence. Dabbling in high-school-bedroom aesthetics, they present a black light-lit, wax-dripped underground economy of obscure LPs and 45s—or at least decoy covers. Armed with a discerning punk snob’s persona (with crates of Camelot, Kazumi, and Wastoid) as well as an ample source of collage material, NC spawn neon-and-photo doppelgangers (in plastic sleeves!) that beg to be touched. Be prepared for faux-wood laminate and a Kennedy obsession. Fluorescent price tags of $25-$100 visually tie to the geometric wall posters above. The whole spectacle invites intimate inspection, a crate-digger’s scrutiny, even as you know there’s no musical substance behind it all. But if you’re dubious of these bands’ existence, as I was, ask yourself: Could the world still turn without an album entitled Puerto Ricans Messed Up A Teenage Girl?

From what I can tell, Serena Cole has fallen for black powder’s black magic, or at least temporarily gleaned a vicarious thrill from the gun-lusting populace. Her single piece is a facsimile magazine cover for SWAT, translated from photo and typography into “swatercolor”. It’s oodles looser than the figurative fine-tuning of her more typical illustrative females. So engaged with the passion for lead—as opposed to her usual metallic leafs—Cole carried the work right off the page’s right. Most importantly, the vitals are still present: “Down and dirty”—224,000 rounds in 12 days. Yep, that means 224,000 bullets.

While Cole is studying ways to end life, Kara Joslyn is searching for beginnings (no more tranquil, I’m sure). There’s a prismatic poetry to her Pottery Barn big bang. Like Zeus and the Greek pantheon, a large vase anchors small, similar ones amid a mystical geometric smoke screen. Within the seeming uniformity gather islands of density, concentric knots. It all hides under a sandy Aladdin-like color palette; the corresponding texture is also evident in the heavy atomization of repeatedly sprayed and masked paint. A golden potion spills beneath it all, introducing a new factor into this strange brew.

Can’t you feel the gates opening? In Sean Monaghan’s parallelograms, I can see them—either that, or introductory semaphore. I’m still spinning over his bewildering blend of isometric views and modded cultural insignias. A swastika and a peace sign, each corruptly forged by the switching of a single line, become meaningless both individually and in their relationship, but they’re still felt like a phantom limb. A scrawled dog, scraggly, sports either dreadlocks or earrings. It’s unclear, even though it’s the drawing’s focus, as the lines fade away before the hind legs are founded. And then there’s the burning image: foreground hot dogs, cooking like brain cells on a grill within a grill—backyard fractals. After all the symbols invoked, Maniac Gallery itself appears an icon among the scrappy, nomadic galleries of Oakland. A fitting tag line: rehab is for quitters.

--Andy Ritchie

(*Images, from top to bottom:  Nightmare City, Boring/Interesting, 2008, mixed media on paper.  Lauren Barcelon, Installation view from The America's Next Top Model series, 2008, ink on paper,  14 x 17".  Erin Allen, Installation view, 2008, oil, acrylic and mixed media on canvas and paper.  Nightmare City, I'm 27 Already Fuck This Rock N Roll Bullshit It's Time to Go Back to School, 2008, mixed media installation (DETAIL).  Nightmare City, I'm 27 Already Fuck This Rock N Roll Bullshit It's Time to Go Back to School, 2008, mixed media installation (DETAIL).)

Posted by Andy Ritchie on 1/12/09 | tags: installation mixed-media

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