Little Lost One
On paper I should really dislike this show of cute things called "You're the One for Me
" but it's so wholeheartedly
wrong and thoroughly obsessed with things I marginally understand that it became challenging and therefore worth exploring some.
Edge is essentially a crush artist and she loves cute boys
and kittens. The subject matter is innocuous enough but Edge's impressive no-nonsense
execution and careful color choices are coupled with her studied obsession with
cuteness, all made palatable by Takashi Murakmi's importation of kawaii
or cute culture into contemporary art. If you are into cute boys and kittens
then this is heaven. The kittens in particular make me very uneasy and they
have a strong recent history in contemporary art if you consider Fischli
Nauman's cat in the studio
. The difference here is instead of being disarming
these are images of obsession and designed to provoke a specific fetished reaction
rather than an open ended opportunity for confusion.
a few of Edge's boys
Judging by this work Edge is capable of summoning crushes and obsessions to paper in a way reminicent to how some 11 year old girls develop truly scary fixations. It takes me way back before
I could grow facial hair, I remember one girl who named her cat "Koot Kootie"
she specified the "k" spelling and had a whole musical number she'd
sing the cat. Her twin brother taped the song and played back to a few of us
before class one day. It scarred us all for life I think (she seemed genuinely
pleased we hated it so)
oh and that girl was obsessed with John Taylor
of Duran Duran too. I think Taylor's hair looked like "Kootie" actually.
Beyond my personal reaction here, this show at Motel is one of the tightest most sustained solo shows I've seen in recent months. Yet, I feel manipulated into
actually worrying about this artist's psychological health as well as any kittens she might be taking care of. She's
even drawn Tom Welling of Smallville fame as a young kid (look I had a low-level stalker at age 12 and she annoyed me thoroughly eventhough the teachers thought it was cute). I also recognize Hayden
Christiansen too because he played Darth Vader in the recent but iffy Star Wars
prequels. Edge clearly knows how to push all the "innocent"
buttons and it's freaky because I'm certain these actors looked different than
this when they were younger. Which means this is all very effective and a bit
of a subjective time machine. Still, I can only guess as to why these grown but young men are drawn more often than not as idealized boys? Does the introduction of youthful innocence keep the guilty little crush more pure or somehow more of a naughty fantasy that cannot be consummated between artist and subject? This definitley isn't too pygmalion-esque because the monochrome and washy watercolors keep the objects of adoration decidedly unrealistic and aloof.
Actually, Edge does draw her boyfriend too so that theory doesn't quite work and I suspect it's a sort of passive agressive power thing (which makes this pretty funny stuff).
There is idealism at work here too, even with the kittens.
These new monochromatic watercolor kittens are much better than her early oil
paintings which seemed to be overworked, less obsessed and more ironic kitsch.
Somehow making them simpler has amplified the idealized innocence factor. As a rhetorical
exercise I find it interesting to think how creepy it would be if a male artist
had drawn all of the actresses he liked as preteen hearthrobs? ...it wouldn't go over so well in public. Also drawing cute puppies and kittens will probably always exist as a publicly sanctioned genre (especially in high school and middle school art programs). Apparently the less gendered non human subjects are a different flavor of fetish and more tied to parental feelings???
Still it begs the question is this just pushing buttons? Is that enough for
art? Can exploiting youthful nostalgia for a less complicated time (like 6 years
ago) be simply considered successful but unimportant art? Does importance really
matter if you love kittens? Really aren't kittens just primally invested baby surrogates? It is telling that instead of adding a certain nonchalance like Elizabeth
Peyton's best (and earlier) works Edge has gone to the weird side, ignored what
is cool or reserved and refined these images to the point of being ultra dorky shrines. It's like those scary 4 hour phone calls some preteen girls can some
times fall into with their friends.
Maybe Edge just needs to turn her cute ray from merely "stun" to
"Doom." Shouldn't she draw a huge mural of 200 kittens and put it
in a bank lobby, corporate boardroom or some head of state's office? Now that
would be fun but maybe this better on a personal level. Yes, this show takes me back
to middle school and reminded me of the way 11 year old girls seemed so completely
insane. Youth can be scary, and yes I want to protect these kittens and under less arty circumstances might warn the guys she's drawn that she could be dangerous. It's a kind of shock art that can be effective and it's definitely worthwhile; just don't put it in my study!
Maybe she's as good as an artist in this genre can get and that is something, even if the goals are limited, arcane and internal.
The show ends April 29th
Motel is Located on NW Couch Between 5th & 6th Aves
Tel. 503.222.6699 • Hours: Tues to Sat, noon to 6pm • www.motelgallery.com