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Wednesday 04.26.06

« PDX Film Festival Begins Tonight | Main | Tokyo Flow »

Allison Edge at Motel

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 and Weiss or Bruce 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.

Ice Princess

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

Posted by Jeff Jahn on April 26, 2006 at 23:57

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