I couldn't tell if I should be laughing at the conversation I overheard, if it was a part of the exhibition or if there were actually valid points being made. The conversation was about what makes a professional artist a professional. The consensual agreement, between the three, was that if the artist was paid for their art, they were professional. With the conversation being held in the midst of The Lab's group show, entitled: Gold Rush: Artist as Prospector, there seemed to be no irony.
The theme of Gold Rush is, in short, focused on the "moment when we are less confident, and some may say less egotistical," and how "the art world is responding in ever more inventive ways." The show itself seemed to lack the fluidity of this message and felt overcome with a monetary tone, but did capture variation of media form, and artistic flavor. With nine artists contributing to this group show, it is understandable that such a wide range is found. However, I had hoped that there would have been a more noticeable interchange throughout the artists, and like the theme stated, they would all "embody the audacity, inventiveness, fortitude, and at times recalcitrance that are part of the Western ethos." What was mostly felt, of the four adjectives mentioned, was the audaciousness an artist can have in economically tough times.
In a satire of one of my all time favorite movies, Bad, Ugly and the Good, created by Packard Jennings, we are presented with a spliced medley of Sergio Leon's classic, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly's famous scenes: the introductions to all three characters, the lengthy Tuco in a noose scene, and the epic last shoot-down between the three. I was told that there was also some commentary, such as "Yeah!" when we are faced with the into of Clint Eastwood who is "The Good". A satire of a satire can be a tricky business, and one should be advised to perhaps sit down with it.
Patricia Diart presents Found Objects under glass, as though her found objects were relics to our culture and heritage. As though they are items we need to preserve. She places such objects as a take out container, a school photo, some PSA tape and a sun dried rat under a sealed observation container. The message that "the art world is responding in ever more inventive ways", got lost on me with these Found Objects. Found objects, when curated with story, with plot, with a definitive line, can be very touching, indeed. The plot and line of these encased objects was lost on me, I must admit, for on my way to The Lab I passed a few take out containers, a sun dried pigeon wing and a dirty love note left for the street cleaners of Shotwell... though the love note was endearing and felt like it was missing it's rightful owner, I could not make a link between these items. Some items found just cannot be linked and seeing these artifacts of a typical gutter under glass felt weak, however. Something about the missing link of their natural surroundings....
Similar feelings rose for me as I gazed over the fourteen photographs of "castles" in America, a collection from the series Castles in the United States of America. I think I could have found some silly humor in Alice Shaw's work if there had been one random "castle" photograph amongst the other found items in the room. But there were fourteen rather awkward photos, lined up on one of The Lab's white walls. Overwhelmed with the images of castle-esque buildings of San Francisco, I could not find the message of "inventiveness, fortitude, and at times recalcitrance." However, I began to feel the pings of audaciousness. With a hint of audacity in my head now, I turned to be hovered over by more of Patricia Diart's Found Objects. This time, with an entire corner of the room dedicated to a burnt to the core pine tree, most likely kept from Christmas, some hair pieces strung from the ceiling, asphalt chunks piled up, and a gigantic chunk of dirty Styrofoam with a cheap high heel on top- I thought, please let this all be tongue-in-cheek.
In a darkly enclosed slide and video room, we are presented with Felipe Dulzaides' video slide projection, Red paint thrown to a building in construction. I couldn't help but pose the question to my partner in art crime, of what it meant to disclose so much in the title of your piece. What else do you have to say, when you've said it all already? Dulzaides' film capturing "blood" on motorcycles did little to help me. Recalcitrance hit me like a splatter of red paint, I suppose. Is Dulzaides damning with "blood" these buildings and... this motorcycle? The Gold Rush voice, once again, felt lost to me.
Some chuckles were provided by Marija Mojca Pungercar's one-channel video, Excuse Me. For 7 minutes, Pungercar holds her camera at hip level, walking into people on San Francisco streets. Though a little dizzying to watch, it is funny to see just how many people don't move out of her way, and the film is stopped for a few moments held up in a San Franciscan's crotch.
The show itself felt a little scattered and uncohesive, and I left feeling frustrated. Perhaps separate and with a different title tent, each piece would have said something more to me. I suppose what I had hoped for was a sense of hope. A sense that in these economic trials sometimes there can still be found heartfelt artwork, created by and for the simple necessity of creation. Art birthed because art itself is audacious in its existence, needing nothing more than some soul from its creator.
-- Montgomery Rene
(*Images, from top to bottom: The Rules Make it Fun, Kate Pocrass, 2009, Watercolor and gouache on paper, 22 x 30 inches each. Bad, Ugly and the Good, Packard Jennings, 2007, DVD, 6:33; Castles of the United States of America, San Francisco, CA, Alice Shaw, 2007, Archival Pigment Print; Red paint thrown to buildings in construction, Felipe Dulzaides, 2000 - 2003, Video and Film Slide Projection. All images courtesy of the artists and The Lab.)