You know its summer in New York City when a massive influx of group shows overrun commercial galleries boroughwide. Some of these are organized by fashionable artists, writers, and sometimes even curators, who, to put it bluntly, should not be allowed to partake in the curatorial practice. This, however, does not ring true for Pierogi's new summer group show, Apocalyptic Summer, which features some of the best work I've seen in a gallery setting all year. All of the artists in Apocalyptic Summer, in one way or another, comment upon what feels to be impending doom in an age plagued with wars, natural disasters, food shortages, falling economies, etc. Since most of the works on view are dated from 2006 and on, with a large number produced in 2008, a sense of urgency fills the air. Or, as the sign reads in David Scher's small work on paper, The End is Near in a Way so Repent Somehow.
William Lamson's performance video, Think Globally, Act Locally, is outstanding and encapsulates the tragicomic, tongue-in-cheek humor cum seriousness that pervades Apocalyptic Summer. Lamson filmed himself wearing a protective mask, with bananas embedded into it, and lit the tips of firecrackers wedged inside each banana, which subsequently explode and splatter all over the camera lens. The banana, a classic agent for slapstick pratfalls, has also now come to represent the pitfalls of corporate farming practices. The title of Larson's gonzo antics hints toward a critique of this brand of corporate monoculture.
Terror and the sublime meet in Michael Schall's beautifully executed pencil drawing, The Melting of the Habbakuk, which depicts in a Turner-esque grandeur the sinking, or more appropriately, melting of an experimental World War II Allied aircraft designed like an iceberg. Like Turner, Schall's The Melting of the Habbakuk uses past history to evoke contemporaneous events, this time pointing to any one of the recent natural disasters occurring worldwide.
Jonathan Schipper, whose recent projects include a slow motion car crash between two American muscle cars, contributes to Apocalyptic Summer a much less spectacular work of art, but one that is no less intriguing. Here, Schipper exhibits an absurd machine whose function is to recreate the shattering and awkward reassembling of a delicate teacup. The Inherent Beauty in a Failure to Reconstruct (Broken Teacup) hints toward a failure not so apocalyptic, but one that is more personal and that functions as a larger metaphor for the human condition.
Despite its bleak tenor, Apocalyptic Summer leaves one not feeling hopeless, but oddly amused by the way each of the artists tackle such monumental and weighty topics in, generally speaking, an un-monumental fashion. Apocalyptic Summer is an exhibit not to miss, but lets just hope that its prophecy does not ring true so soon. At least, not before one more dip in the pool!
Images: William Lamson's performance video, Think Globally, Act Locally, 2008; Michael Schall, The Melting of the Habbakuk, 2008; Jonathan Schipper, The Inherent Beauty in a Failure to Reconstruct (Broken Teacup), 2008. All images courtesy Pierogi.