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New Work by Felipe Dulzaides and Robin Rhode

"Public art" might be an umbrella term for amateur pranksters and "serious" art mongers alike but, then again, the recontextualization of communal space is relevant to most urbanites. The thorny relationship between people and their environment is at the heart of Busted, at New Langton Arts through July 24. The exhibit features new works by Cuban-born artist Felipe Dulzaides (based in San Francisco) and South African-born Robin Rhode (based in Berlin). Both artists offer an international array of performance, video, photography, and sculptural installation that borrows from a diverse stable of influences and themes from Hip-Hop culture to family water parks. As appraisals of institutions, civic free-for-alls, viewer expectations, and the meaning we invest in objects, the assembled work transforms common objects and familiar places into stylish meditations on place and context.

Dulzaides, following in the footsteps of Duchamp, adds an ironic twist to some of the most banal constructions- turning lifeguard chairs into toilets and pictures of political bigwigs into slot machine symbols. In Dulzaides' work, contradiction runs awry in a frantic dance between function and aesthetics. Intention and chance collide in the work on display, which includes "Big Surf" (2004), a video installation that's projected from under the seat of a lifeguard chair that sits on the gallery floor. The subject? A man-made water park in Tucson, Arizona. The intended incongruity of the oasis in the middle of the desert is perfectly matched by the awkwardness of the viewer's vantage point. Other work on display includes the photographic series "A Hole in a Lookout Chair", which transfers a lifeguard chair to the woods and examines the many quirks and proposed uses of an object disconnected from its "normal" environment.

Like Dulzaides, Rhode is dedicated to material and conceptual idiosyncrasies. Inspired by graffiti and Hip-Hop culture, Rhode uses performance, video and photography to spin entrancing urban narratives. After drawing cars, basketball hoops, and see-saws on asphalt with chalk, Rhode gets his performers to enact dramatic feats with the hand-drawn implements; then he films them from above. Juxtaposing three dimensions against two gives Rhode's work a cartoonish aspect, but it's not all fun and games. The way he uses urban space and paraphernalia challenges the cultural meanings that are deeply embedded in objects and architecture.

One of Rhode's pieces on display is the untitled performance-based video (2004) he created while in residence at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Using a foaming window cleaner to spray "graffiti" on a brick wall grid, Rhodes forms intrepid-looking lines that promptly fade away as the cleaner dries. It's a tongue in cheek critique/revision of the idea of graffiti as defacement.

Busted adroitly explores the often subtle relationship between people and their surroundings in a way that's comic and irreverent yet pointed and confrontational in its measurement of the assumptions that are ingrained in objects and sites. The impact of transforming objects and buildings of neglect into sites of creative intention results in a show that is as quirky as it is challenging.

Busted is on exhibit through July 24.
at New Langton Arts Gallery
1246 Folsom Street, (between 8th and 9th)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415.626.5416
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12 noon-6 pm