Allegra LaViola Gallery is pleased to present “Pornucopia”, a group exhibition featuring painting, works on paper, video, sculpture and installation pieces.
The exhibition takes the idea of plenty as its starting point. Once a notion so incredible it was given as a gift by the Gods, the idea of abundance is now an every day experience. Supermarkets are filled with brightly colored packaged foods that never rot and barely dressed women are used to sell everything from toilet paper to toothbrushes. In this world of excess, what do we use to fill the void?
In Ryan Alexiev’s The Wizard of O’s we are introduced to a shockingly bright landscape of breakfast cereal. Referencing the poppy induced journey that Dorothy and her friends undertook, Alexiev builds a city out of neon dust; just as the Wizard in the story turned out to be just a little man behind a curtain, so too the fantastical scenery here is only air with additive colors. Our sweet tooth is indulged again by Josh Atlas, whose “Donut Spa” is blackly humorous: the usual image of a svelte woman surrounded by celery is replaced by the revolting overabundance of sugary donuts, so many that the man in question is engulfed by the tide of dessert.
Junk food makes an appearance in the work of Paul Brainard, whose paintings and drawings combine the advertiser’s artful positioning with an onslaught of provocative images. Like navigating a video game or super highway, information is thrown at us from every angle, asking us to pause and indulge before being replaced by another equally captivating vision. Advertising also makes an appearance in Duncan Hannah’s cheeky collages, though what is on offer is not a straightforward as it seems. Similarly, the kaleidoscope world of Kara Maria, where aging naked women guzzle gasoline, is couched in the static world of TV and advertising. Images once used to be alluring are transformed into horrifying combinations, no longer seducing, just frightening. Tom Sanford does not shy away from transforming the ignoble into the stately, either. An unappealing trio of celebrity women are named The Three Graces, and the simple beer can and rolled bill are changed from mere tools of indulgence to monumental icons. The celebration of beauty and elegance comes up empty when what is venerated is hollow.
Taking a more delicate approach, Catherine Howe presents richly constructed still lives that vibrate with veiled energy. From deep within the fecund arrangements, small ghosts manifest and then disappear as our gaze shifts. There are no preservatives here: the bounty is real, but rotting. The classical also informs the work of Alison Blickle, Sarah Kurz and Panni Malekzadeh, whose beautiful women frolic indoors and out. Though the characters seem complicit in their seductive gestures, their cinematic allure is all for an audience of no one. Like the airbrushed women who wink from the pages of pornography magazines in solitary splendor, these figures are performing for the viewer alone.
The more graphic sexual content of pornography is embraced by Stephen Irwin, whose works are the classic embodiment of “know it when you see it” pornography. Even with the choice bits missing there is no question what is going on here. Ion Birch’s cartoon romps seem innocent from afar, but viewed for more than a second leave no doubt as to what is going on. Amanda Church and Daniel Lyons also thrust the explicit at us, leaving little doubt as to how we approach and commodity the bodies presented as objects. And if it is action we are after Will Kurtz, Lyle Starr and Prudence Whittlesey do not shy away from delivering the goods.
As we give ourselves permission to satisfy every desire or craving with a quick fix, we must ask what we give up in the process. Trading the real cornucopia for the plastic version doesn’t preserve us forever, it merely staves off the inevitable. But we certainly will have a good time getting there.