The good news about bad news is that it makes all those people who were left unaffected feeling somehow fortunate. I know a guy who was having a terrible day until he found out his best friend’s wife had run off with a plumber for the summer. Suddenly his bad day wasn’t so bad. There was a lot of bad news in the art world this year, galleries closing, museums short staffing, artists underselling, collectors not buying. But the good news is that tough times have a way of inspiring really soulful labor.
At Daneyal Mahmood Gallery the summer exhibition Bad News deals with some of the more testy material of our times (waterboarding, pharmaceutical manipulation, a deficiency of goods, our financial system getting hung out to dry) but it does so with the sly humor of a headline writer who knows it’s all just part of a phase. Still, in the world of selling papers, it’s a proven fact that bad news is a better seller than good news.
Like the week-in-review section that comes out on Sunday, the five artists presented in Bad News all created work that embodies the passing year. Stephen J. Shanabrook waterboarded a plastic choirboy figurine with chocolate. Justine Cooper created a marketing campaign for the fictional pharmaceutical HAVIDOL ® (pronounced Have-it-all). Guerra De La Paz has woven a rope out of men’s ties (Power Ties) and used the tie-rope to make five pretty legit looking nooses—one for each day of the work week—called Monday thru Friday. Peter Belyi has made signs that reflect a shortage of commodities called Useless Alphabet. And turning the inside out, Leemour Pelli’s paintings (the same red shade as an exposed human muscle) attempt to wrangle with the ultimate breakdown of humanity itself, which of course is BAD NEWS because where the hell is the shop that fixes up humanity?
The synopsis for the year in review may be a bunch of Bad News, but like King Solomon says, ‘this too shall pass.’ Of course the King was talking about his wealth and wisdom, but the same could be said for crooked Rabbis, perverted priests, ethically unrighteous corporate leaders, tax dodging politicians, and drug abusing ball players. It’ll all pass, the good times will eventually return, and in due time they’ll pass too. In fact, it’s thanks to Bad News that we have any good news at all.
(Images: Bad News (installation views), 2009. Courtesy the artists and Daneyal Mahmood Gallery, New York)