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Friday 04.18.08

« Speaking on Eutrophication | Main | Regine Basha Lectures »

Overstock: Chris Held at Jace Gace


Drene Shampoo Ad Proctor & Gamble 1952

The other night I stopped by the Safeway on my way home from work. I popped in to purchase toilet paper, toilet paper, and only toilet paper when I suddenly found myself in the shampoo and conditioner aisle. My gaze lingered lovingly and languorously over the many options afforded me by Burt and his prolific bees. I thought of how natural and shiny and wholesome I might become, taking home one of the luscious, mouthwatering lip glosses or lathering lotions. I thought I might sit on a grassy hillside in a sundress under the aromatic ardour of a flowering fruit tree, and with my soft brown skin and hydrated locks take in a spring sunset as I sipped the honeyed elixir of eternal youth.


Brook Shields in "The Blue Lagoon" 1980

My mouth watered. I looked left and Pantene's vitamin promises made my stomach rumble. I felt my ends split. The fluorescent sheen of this lonely aisle seemed at once dry and barren, a cold, pale wasteland to which these bottles held the antidote. Suddenly the green glow of Herbal Essences new line saw me reach for its slender and ergonomic design. The bottle was cool in my clammy hand, yet as I brought the new potion to my nose, I was reminded of what it was to lie on a beach under a hot sun, the scent of coconut and hibiscus flower and rain and youth all around me. I opened my eyes and looked up to be lured by the virile strength and economy of Mane and Tail at the top of the shelf. I saw myself galloping at full speed through Montanian grasslands, laughing, strong and sunlit, my golden tipped tresses seeming like wings afire as they flew behind me. In all of these beautiful bottles, my salvation awaited.


Fountain of Youth Lucas Cranach the Elder 1546

I left with three bottles of such and such. And it is true that these days, the scent of summer melon is the halo in which I leave my house. Honeyed papayas trail after me as I exit the community swimming center. Lavender Hush is the quiet that lulls my sleep to dreaming. And yet. . . My hands still shake with a chronic neuroses. My Oregonian pallor reminds me just how much I yearn for sunny days not yet here, and the bags under my eyes and cracked lips attest to the fact that I opt still not for a run and a bottle of water, but a laptop and yet another three shot Americano. For all of the promises held within those silky goos and sexy designs, I still reek of blank despite all my fruity essence.

This month, Chris Held has constructed a shrine to the promise of products at Jace, Gace.

Chris Heldoverstock.jpg

"Overstock" 2008 Chris Held at Jace Gace

While purely domestic as utilitarian tools, the shrine within this hip cafe cum gallery space is seductive, sexy even. The colors of these objects, despite their identity and handiwork, makes them feel as if their usage could be sexy too, inviting even. Sweeping it up in lime was never cooler, the tv dinner never quicker, never more nutritious, never more hip. Held's "Overstock" invites the viewer into its cool and loving arms to pay homage to the promise of what we are seduced by most as humans: easier and better lives. And it this promise of an easier and better life that in the end pares down to our spiritual fulfillment, or so we are led to believe. Culture inculcates an idea of beauty as the outward expression of spirit and enlightenment; success is beauty, wealth is beauty, health is beauty, heaven is beauty, God is beauty. Throughout the world, the icons of religion exhibit this notion of a beautiful enlightenment, a glorious betterment.
This notion is exhibited in all of the religious iconography throughout the world.


Buddhist Shrine in Chinese Tradition

Held's shrine embodies the notion of the way in which a capitalist, consumer society plays upon these promises as tools in which to sell goods and services. Being beautiful and rich with goods somehow equates to happiness (or at least that is what the engine advertises) in this society. What is the difference between object and ephemera really? Which one will offer you more of a salvation, more fulfillment? Go see Chris Held's shrine and ask yourself where you place your faith.


"99 cent" 1999 Andreas Gursky Image lent by the artist courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC, Monika Spruth Gallery, Cologne

Posted by Amy Bernstein on April 18, 2008 at 11:07 | Comments (9)


This anti-consumerism art and commentary are soooooooooooooooooo old. Both artist and reviewer need to renew there ADBUSTERS subscriptions and please TRY to think an original thought if your going to make art or talk about it!

Posted by: JDavid [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 22, 2008 05:39 PM

It's a fence riding pro/anti consumer review.

The show might not be groundbreaking but it beats most of the Chinese stuff that is currently working over this timeless subject... I suspect the genre will be around as long as large market economies exist.

My favorite touch here is the linoleum flooring in front, it screams... wait/get in line.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 23, 2008 01:04 AM

JDavid's response is so juvenile It's hardly worth addressing; It's difficult to take something seriously when one writes the words, "sooooooooooo old."
I don't think the point of the piece is to try and express an entierly new idea-(which is impossible to do). Rather, the piece is based on ideas of repeated cultural/religious themes and, it's supposed to be obvious. The formally stunning installation is far more interesting than most of the work I've seen in this town.

Posted by: marie [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 23, 2008 02:24 PM

I think JD offered a mostly fair response (though one should assume any educated artist or reviewer isn't going to find adbusters to be a new discovery).

Overall, art is an inherently subjective experience and it's JD's to share and it's important people feel like they can offer an opinion (though it's gonna be tested in a forum as public as this).

I also think Chandra Bocci has done this sort of thing so well in town that some comparison should be made. One of the differences between Held and Bocci is that Held purchased all of this obects on a credit card with the idea of returning it. Bocci transforms her materials and the usually couldn't be returned. Held is also creating a temple of sorts which demands a kind of worship... Bocci would never do that... though many in town do indeed worship Chandra.

Held is less craft oriented too.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 23, 2008 02:38 PM

Okay, I have often wondered what it would take for me to comment and here it is "Held is less craft oriented too."

Held's work is impeccable, both his body sculptural pieces and this newer work that deals with the found and assembled. Its a distinct quality of what he makes.
Bocci's on the other hand looks like it is barely able to keep itself together, hot glue strands and loose pieces of fishing line all over the place in a way I don't believe is intentional (or if it is, not very convincingly done). Every time I see her work the craftsmanship is where it falls short for me.

Posted by: jenene [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 23, 2008 09:39 PM

I too have had a similar feeling from Bocci's work. I am pretty sure that she is making a conscious decision in keeping her work "unpolished," but it seems as if she needs to commit to being more or less loose with her technical craft. I often have the same feeling with Jesse Hayward's work, but I just always want to see his work even more overwhelming and chaotic.

Held has consciously made the decision of being as polished as possible, and is using the "sexy" language of marketing and advertising. Where as Bocci is certainly not interested in twisting the propagandistic qualities of advertising against it's original intention.

And to JDavid, I will lose interest in anti-consumerism art when I have to stop working some mundane job just to survive. Therefore, something tells me this type of art will always be in style.

Posted by: Calvin Ross Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 23, 2008 11:12 PM

Well Ive seen Chandra be seemless in an 1800 sq ft. room. Ive also seen her do more self consciously constructed and therefore more crafty work than Held (judging from this 1 piece Ive seen).

Whearas here Held seems more like assemblage... He allows the individual parts to retain their identites... Chandra mutates, Held creates a colony.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 24, 2008 12:37 AM

To Double J:
I surely think you have seen Held's work before since he showed at Tilt Gallery last year ("Fresh Donuts"). Perhaps you even wrote about the show (and how well crafted the objects were?)????

Posted by: marie [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 24, 2008 01:12 PM

You are right... now I remember that work (so many names, had this been a review and not a comment quip I would have done my basic background research and seen I'd already reviewed the work in the past)... Also, on the surface I never would have equated the two bodies of work to Held, though there is a relationship.

Overall, I think Im making a huge distinction between craftiness and craftsmenship. The crafty stuff has a kind of self-consciousness to it. On the other hand Jacqueline Ehlis makes impeccably crafted work that isn't self conscious at all... that's an issue of seemless craftsmenship being used to convey a different type of idea. Held is somwhere in between Bocci and Ehlis.

Also Chandra has a lot of process activity built into her work that she's trying to show.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 24, 2008 05:15 PM

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