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Eight Artists Get Loony
by Nirmala Nataraj on Jun 23, 2006
Here’s an etymology game that might seem patently obvious: derive the meaning of “Octonarius Lunius”. Most of you who had your Greek and Latin prefixes drummed into your head in grade school know that “octo” means “of or pertaining to eight.” “Lun” means “having to do with the moon.” The eight artists assembled in the eponymous group show might raise questions more relevant than word origins, but the “Loony Eight” is a suitable moniker for the crew, in only the most flattering sense.
Amanda Wachob, Jack Long, Yosuke Ueno, Henry Lewis, Wednesday Kirwan, Tom Allen, Tara Lisa Foley, and Jamie Dorfman all hail from similar traditions of artistic sorcery, deriving inspiration from toys, fairy tales, and the freakiest landscapes of fantasy imaginable. The pieces in the exhibition range from nostalgic renderings reminiscent of children’s book illustrations to wry commentaries on the manner in which pop culture and depictions of glamour seep into our most private dreamscapes. The standouts in the show aptly straddle a line between primitive fantasias and more complex delineations of desire, dream, and anxiety.
Artist Amanda Wachob typically deals in voluptuous portraits of babies, baubles, and duchesses that have their roots in stuff as disparate as Edgar Allan Poe stories, masquerade balls, surrealism, and medieval hybrids. In a series of vintage illustrations that recall the exaggerated femininity of the 70s, Wachob examines the kind of cult images of glamour and beauty that are typically plastered on billboards and strewn throughout fashion magazines. In one piece, Wachob’s delirious swathes of oil demarcate a panoply of female faces. While the painting recalls the airbrushed seduction of a rote beauty shot, the clustered effect is as sinister as it is enticing.
Wachob also deftly examines the intersection between race and beauty in a piece that shows a black woman bucolically jumping rope across a billboard featuring disconnected images of Eurocentric beauty. Her most intriguing piece, however, combines racial stereotypes with the discomfort and claustrophobia of domestic spaces. A 70s housewife (ostensibly the same woman who was jumping rope in the prior painting) levitates above a floor of candy-colored rectangles, clad in an old-fashioned apron and holding on to a black squiggle that appears to disengage itself from the plane of the canvas. The woman’s pose is as awkward as a Barbie doll; in fact, her rigidity makes her seem as one-dimensional as a paper cutout, which serves as a jarring disconnect from the liveliness of the piece.
While Wachob’s dreamy images are loaded with contemporary cultural ramifications, Jack Long’s whimsical oils on wood approximate the nonsensical fables of children’s book writers like Roald Dahl, and are scattered with distinguishing motifs such as treehouses transported by zeppelins or horns that appear to be blowing out silly string. These are images which deliberately recall the fantastic scapes of childhood stories, but Long’s influences range from Hieronymous Bosch to Federico Fellini. His mesmeric series of turreted castles, gondolas floating through green moats, and flowers in full bloom are full of coded symbols of sexuality, desire, and adult anxiety. In one particularly beautiful image, a rope connects two rubicund trees across a pond, summoning sweet cartoonish sentiments of love and sexuality.
Yosuke Ueno, one of the most perplexing artists in the show, boasts a candy-colored palette that conjures up similarly random yet heavily coded images: obscure historical references, plush toys and unicorns, grainy star hunters whizzing around cosmic pools on their rubber ducks, and other anthropomorphic depictions that'll leave you scratching your noggin in amazement.
Through June 30th
by Nirmala Nataraj on Jun 23, 2006