Unlike No Room, the group show Jekyll Island does not offer the notion that even a part of the contemporary psyche seeks unity or wholeness. Instead, distopia and fracture reign absolutely and there seems to be no point in resisting. Its curators posit “underlying pathos of a psychopathic irrational society” as their purpose – they want to find emotion in a messed up world prone to upheaval, primal chaos, and schizophrenia. One would think that it would be fairly easy to find emotion in all of that drama, but the theory of the show presents that this is actually a hollow place where human connection is impossible.
I’ll be honest -- the premise is tragically overdone in contemporary art. However, one can find many thrills in Jekyll Island including the paintings of Glenn Brown, who finds his metaphor for contemporary life by dissolving the structure and posture of traditional portraiture into a soup of flavored icing. Pheobe Unwin adds gothic ruin to the mix, painting with a dull Northern-European palette complete with heavy overtones of dread. The wide ranging luscious surfaces and textures make individual pieces in this show worth the trip. I recommend viewing Ged Quinn’s When the Ground is Still Pretty Hard, 2008, a crumbling house frozen into the hard ground with a soiled snow man, as a leaden version of Miro’s great vision, The Farm, 1922. Compare this work and Jekyll Island as a whole with Miro’s sense for Mallorca light and inner vibrancy -- one quickly wonders what happened, where we are as a society, and the possibility of going anywhere at all.
(Images from top to bottom: Jekyll Island, 2008, Installation view, courtesy Honor Fraser Gallery; Glenn Brown, Beautification, 1999, Oil on board, 23 1/4 x 22 inches, courtesy Honor Fraser Gallery; Jekyll Island, 2008, Installation view, courtesy Honor Fraser Gallery)
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