Once, in a less enlightened time, July meant summer group shows with works from a gallery's inventory arranged decorously if randomly on the walls. But in the brave new post-K world, July now means summer group shows with works that may reflect a theme, arranged purposely on the walls. This is progress. Offerings in the burgeoning St. Claude arts district are especially varied, covering everything from Horror at Barrister's to the more intimate musings and ruminations of Echoic at Antenna.
Barrister's director Andy Antippas has long harbored a gothic appreciation for things mortal and gruesome, so this Horror expo was probably just a matter of time even if it was actually curated by Tony Campbell. Much of this is prankish, if sometimes accomplished, as we see in Generic Art Solutions' David and Goliath, a large photographic reprise of the great Caravaggio classic. Here the subjects appear dressed as contemporary urban slackers as Campbell holds a bloody machete in one hand and the severed head of Matt Vis in the other, in an image that explores the parallels between biblical parables and National Enquirer headlines while highlighting the visceral shock value of both.
The psychically charged spaces between humor and horror have long been a concern of Jessica Goldfinch, who in this show continues her jocular explorations of such lighthearted topics as anatomical deformities and fetal anomalies, all rendered colorfully on little blobs of Shrinky Dink media, a longtime favorite of the munchkins among us. Not much larger but much more monumental in appearance is her Water Bearer, a cold, cast-bronze bust of a hydrocephalic toddler looking Napoleonic as he gazes at the world in the shadow of his imposing cranium. Less familiar but no less imposing are her miniature works on paper that suggest freakish Victorian gynecological engravings. Goldfinch may be on to something here, as genetic horror hits especially close to home in this unsettling time of gene modifications that occasionally go awry. Also imposing are Dennis McNett's demonic masks, horrific visages that meld the tribal aesthetics of northwestern Native Americans with contemporary tattoo and graffiti culture into something distinctly unholy, eerily familiar yet (hopefully) remote.
The Echoic expo at Antenna is as visually and thematically coy as Horror is ham-handed. Curated by Natalie Sciortino-Rinehart, Echoic explores the subjective or psychological aspects of relationships in works by four locally based yet not very well known artists. Spare, enigmatic and almost monochromatic, Echoic exudes an aura not unlike some of John Cage's time- and silence-based compositions, and if the works are somewhat uneven, they function fairly well together as an installation. Even if no easy hooks or conceptual rope ladders are thrown to the viewer, just having that much visual starkness and stillness in one room makes for an interesting contrast to the prevailing attention deficit disorder of so much high-concept contemporary art. Some of the easier ones include A 53 Year Old Comfort Tower, a kind of 14-foot tower, or totem, of pillows suspended in a vertical sequence. Made from fabric, cotton balls, yarn, 'fluffy stuff" and 'dog hair," it's the artist's tribute to her mother, or maybe all mothers. Laura Gipson's see-through wire mesh chair containing castings of outstretched hands in the seat suggests the dualistic potential of intimacy to be either supportive or creepy. But my most " and least " favorite piece is Ariya Martin and Michael Winter's I Am Listening video, a view out the window of a house with nothing happening but gentle movements of tree branches in the breeze. It's utterly boring yet utterly eloquent in the way it evokes the unspoken mysteries that exist in all relationships, the sentient sea of silence that underlies those things we choose to remember. Or not.
- Generic Art Solutions' David and Goliath reprise of Caravaggio's classic painting updates the ancient legend into the milieu of contemporary slackers.