Small A Projects' current show, Green Light Green Light, is one of this winter's refreshing rarities. It holds fort on an island of wry, dry wit and irony, defending itself in the infinite, reverberating echoes of implication the works channel. For lack of effusive formal elements or the push of a gaudy craft, horror vaccui sufferers beware. The immediate impression is of a sparing language composed of clean lines and grace. This can often be intimidating to the gallery goer as it reeks of a content driven motive that can often be too heady or inaccessible. And it is true indeed that these young artists are savvy and efficient in their profundity. Yet upon a more apt observance of each piece, the guise of intellectualism melts away. The sentence, "I got the sex talk on the way to a warehouse grocery store" loitering discreetly on the side of a handpainted label of "Generic Fruit Cocktail In Heavy Syrup" (Anissa Mack 2004) is the needle that pops the balloon of our held breath, and we have to laugh at both the piece and ourselves for having been so wary.
Detail from Anissa Mack's "Generic Fruit Cocktail" 2004
This is a show of questions and puns, a general mockery of human habits and the acts that took ourselves so seriously when we walked through the gallery door. Yet, behind the artists' humor, dark, fleshy bits of a searing poignance sizzle and spit amid the comedic confetti. The exhibition questions some of our most easily accepted and religiously adhered to customs and practices as it takes them out of context and tweaks them, coincidentally drenching them with respective absurdity and sudden weight. What would it mean to have an endless number of birthday wishes? What does the possibility of a car crash sound like? What is the significance of having a distant relative who knew Daniel Boone? What sort of nostalgia does a suntan hold? How much of what we are is composed of accepted, given practice and not that of our own discovery?
The most scholarly among us might find these questions' answers blaring from between the lines of Nietzsche, Foucault, or in the plays of Sartre. Yet Josh Shaddock, Anissa Mack, and Jamie Isenstein suggest we look more closely at the day to day, as this is what will further our progress as humans. In Anissa Mack's quilt piece, the suggestion of the text "my great, great, great, ....grandfather knew Daniel Boone" atop the very traditional American quilt reeks of the false grandeur of claims staked in the name of heritage and tradition. Mack presents this possible atrocity hilariously. The build up of all of the "greats" leading to the punchline is crescendoed in the expert placement of the text . Her comedic visual timing is impeccable. She makes us laugh and socks us in the gut all at the same time. Doubled over in laughter and societal self-loathing, we move to the next piece, moving on in more ways than one.
Josh Shaddock's photograph, Green Light Green Light, from which the title of the show is taken, silently explodes with similar shards of fractal like suggestions. The odd occurrence of a double green light at an intersection suggests imminent doom. We cannot see it or hear it, yet the probability for disaster is almost certain. Enter here the memories of sound and vision; working for us, they replay a synthetic version of reality before our mind's eye. We cringe. Coincidentally, the title, Green Light Green Light, conjures other similar mantras in our associative mind: All systems go. No holds barred. We wonder what the world would be like if this in fact were the case more often, in politics, emotion, faith, plumbing: if the world were not one of stops, but only go.
Detail from Josh Shaddock's "Birthday Wish" dvd 2005
This trio of saucy satirists devise routes to both individual and societal self-reflection by way of fruit cocktail, paper mache, and UV rays. Theirs is a language that is both subversive and delicious, their thought provocation contagious. It is a show not to be missed, an appropriate spur for the year's end, the last bit of laughter that brings the house (of cards) down.
Love the fact that this is such an uncluttered and cleanly hung show. The dryness of the humor is a plus too, especially Shaddock. Still, can we give paper mache a rest?... It just feels played, Rachel Harrison brought it back in 2002 in a big way and did it so briliantly everyone else seems like a one-liner.