The photo on the invitation to Steve Collier's Situational Targets show " a woman in dark shades clutching a deadly looking Special Ops sort of knife with pink gunk clinging to it " dredged up some pop-culture residue from the recesses of memory where half-forgotten images are stored. Specifically, she looks dangerous, almost like a slacker Emma Peel from the old Avengers TV series. The title recalled the Situationist International, an Avengers-era movement devoted to creating disorienting situations intended to jolt people out of their habitual ways of looking at city life. Collier, however, denies any connection to the Situationists, even as the Avengers enjoys eternal life on cable. His photographs, mostly large head and torso shots like weirded-out portraits, suggest an intent to disorient the viewer in ways the Situationists would find familiar, illustrating how ideas from the past can take on an inexplicable half-life of their own. For their part, the Situationists were an offshoot of the Psychogeography movement whose ideas live on through writers like Will Self, who pens a weekly Pyschogeography column on urban surrealism in the London newspaper The Independent. In Collier's case, the urban surrealism exists as a high concept treatment of the human form, in images that read like dadaistic one-liners. In fact, they were taken from law enforcement Web sites depicting suspicious-looking persons for use in target practice. Collier modified them for his own purposes. The pink gunk on the tip of the knife clutched by the woman in the shades is actually cake icing shaped into the form of a religious icon, maybe the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary).
In Secret Admirer, a snarky-looking guy aggressively clutches a bouquet of flowers like a .45-caliber Glock. His face is concealed behind a lacy, red cut-paper valentine mask. This sort of pictorial judo " modifying generic media images for the purpose of critical satire " is a Situationist legacy that lives on in postmodern art, consciously or not.
The Supernova II group show at Barrister's is a conspiracy of another sort, something cooked up by serial curator/provocateur Dan Tague for purposes too noble and complicated to discuss here. The results so far are intriguing if not all that focused, often resembling Whitman's Samplers of emerging, if accomplished, local artists. This also illustrates how context is everything " John Greco's etched copper bas reliefs of human brains, pudenda and vital organs looked more confrontational in edgier expos, but here they look rather elegant. Not that edginess is absent; it just seems a tad subtler in this cozy, collegial setting. For instance, appearing on the wall next to one of Sally Heller's familiar spidery tangles of plastic geegaws and mylar is a pair of photographs that look a lot like Heller's own installation shots. Look again, and interwoven with similar plastic flotsam is something disgustingly oily and pink. The title reveals it to be Bacon and Ear Plugs by Jeff Rinehard and Natalie Sciortino, a rather startling pop-baroque mini-tableau. Extending the meat theme is Sticking, Legging and Fisting, a painting by Mimi Moncier that decorously juxtaposes stylized slaughterhouse scenes with equally stylized urban vistas in a kind of aesthetic abstraction with a social commentary kick.
Nearby, that dark, fibrous, creeping thing your peripheral vision perceives as mold climbing a wall turns out to be Encroachment, Cynthia Scott's 13-foot yarn and lichen tapestry representing mold climbing a wall (a political statement, of course). In another social commentary, a series of foam plastic cups under glass each bear toothy imprints in gold leaf. On the bottom of each cup is the name of the person whose tooth marks are preserved. This is Seth Boonchai's Forensic Cups, proving, if there were any doubt, that evidence can be elegant. The Situationists would probably be pleased.
- In photographs such as Cake Cutter with Mary, Stephen Collier modifies generic mass-media images for his own provocative purposes.