Is identity-based pop art getting to be old hat? Yes and no. While graduate schools and galleries have long contributed to a glut of such work, gender and race perceptions remain the wild cards that fuel many of the social tensions we face today. At a time when we may elect our first woman president, the startlingly misogynistic corporate culture recently exposed at FOX News — amid an equally startling uptick in sharply divisive political rhetoric — can seem a throwback to a dark and distant past. Most people, including contemporary artists, probably never imagined living in a time defined by such starkly divergent trends.
Pelican Bomb Gallery X's 2 Freaky 2 Friday was inspired by Freaky Friday, a 1976 mother-daughter role reversal film comedy. The expo focuses on how "women's public images are created, presented and consumed." It also illustrates the complications surrounding the way identity issues are perceived. Some accompanying texts helpfully reveal that Tameka Norris' hip-hop video, Screening Room, harks to how she felt as a black woman at Yale University, and that the soul sister vocals on Hannah Black's poetic My Bodies video accompany a mythic journey through an all too material and polarized world.
Faith Holland's Chelsea Manning Fan Art series focuses on Bradley Manning's transition from a U.S. Army intelligence specialist imprisoned for giving secret documents to WikiLeaks to a transgender woman known as Chelsea. Here animated GIFs with hearts and sparkles accompany images of Manning's head montaged onto Lady Gaga's body, and while visually engaging, the complexity of the issues posed by such works might be baffling to a casual observer without curator Amanda Brinkman's erudite text guidance. In Sara Clugage's large jacquard tapestries, such as Adam Kadmon (pictured), Britney Spears miraculously appears with mystical Kabbalist verses included because Clugage said she had been moved by Spears' personal evolution in recent years. But will her faith in Spears prove a slippery slope now that her "Make Me..." video is out? Time will tell.