Chase Baido's Enter: The Troll at PSU's AB lobby gallery
Every year a hoard of recent graduates is unleashed upon the art world and about 90% of them use one of these hackneyed strategies for their thesis exhibitions; some sort of mattress, raw wood or plywood, something about masturbation, people standing uncomfortably in their underwear or in the nude, crystals, some sod transported to a gallery or some very standard feminist critique. This year is no exception and yes sometimes one school's graduate shows are a lot better than another school's (this year PSU wins top honors in Portland, last year it was PNCA's MFA program).
Generally, I avoid reviewing these shows because MFA/BFA thesis offerings are frequently masturbatory exhibitions designed to fulfill requirements and the artists save their better ideas for their less supervised first outing after their graduation. The unspoken truth is that nobody wants to peak in school, but many do.
...and then there is Chase Baido's BFA thesis exhibition at PSU, Enter: The Troll. Despite involving allusions to masturbation and a mattress it still manages to be the single best thesis show I have ever seen in Portland. In fact, it is far better than most shows by journeyman artists because it so relentlessly realizes its freakshow fantastical grotesque at every turn. It isn't just a funhouse either, the show poignantly brings the creepiness of basements and the internet all into one condensed space. This is a pit of nonstop wrong.
How? It's a Lynchian multimedia video installation consisting of a creepy video camera that looks like it is a veteran of several porn flicks, a hideously patterned curtain, which acts as a screen for the morphing CGI troll creature, which hovers and air humps various kinds of furniture. Nothing is too specific, which makes it all the more lewd and the way the floating creature's features contort the patterned drapery sets up moire patterns. It is very well done and the oddly groaning soundtrack give the viewer a sense that they are witnessing something that they were not meant to see.
There is also a small monitor with a woman's face being slowly distorted so at various times it appears sad, demonic and sometimes very underage. The end result is relentlessly pervy, putting the interpretation on the viewer's own dirty mind, while making a historical reconnection to renaissance grotesques and middle brow decor. Think of this show as the teenage son of Rober Storr's 2004 Site Santa Fe Biennial, Disparities and Deformations: our grotesque
. The overall effect is one of unspoken, private behavior... something which receives little actual privacy these days as technology threatens to expose the creepier undercurrents of the human psyche. It is a theme Baido has developed before when his talking mushroom video recreated an embarrassingly self-conscious/contorted interview by Tom Cruise, which still remains Baido's strongest work to date.
Yet, overall this exhibition has much better execution as a whole and even the hideously patterned mattress with a green dancing figure in a hole within is well presented... it reminds me somewhat of the Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead.
Judging by his BFA thesis show, of all the graduates in Portland this year... Biado is the one to watch. He's found a way to make self conscious embarrassment, digital media and fantasy into something worth revealing (which is tough when the internet has already revealed everything). Now that he's done with his wank off themed show he can get to something much more original.
Show ends today, June 21st 2012
PSU's AB LOBBY GALLERY
2000 SW 5th Avenue |Art Building, 1st floor
Viewing today till 5