Sunday, September 27, 2009

False Proof at Kirkland Arts Center

Well, Autumn is upon us and it's been off to a hectic start. Two weeks ago I was out in Seattle for the opening of the exhibition "False Proof" at the Kirkland Arts Center. The show was curated by Cable Griffith and was one of the best shows I have seen in awhile. My favorite piece in the show by far was Eugene Parnell's life-sized taxidermed Big Foot. Eugene's Big Foot is the first thing that you see when you walk in the gallery. He is standing on a pile of leaves, digging through a hiker's backpack and eating a powdered donut (observe the white powder on his lips).

The entire show is amazing and I recommend checking it out before it comes down in early October.

Here is a writeup from The Stranger:

Not knowing has two sides: Not knowing is the greatest, not knowing is the worst. In the slight but refreshing group show False Proof at Kirkland Arts Center, not knowing—remaining in a state of possibility, running a continual loop of faith and disbelief—is mostly just great. Nola Avienne paints tiny alchemical symbols drawn from medieval sources using her own blood. She's committed to the mysteries. They stand for themselves, which is why you can't understand them. Eugene Parnell's life(?)-size, big-eyed Taxidermied Bigfoot gobbling the powdered doughnut of a hiker whose clothes and backpack lie at the creature's feet in the gallery is labeled as made of the following materials: "taxidermied bigfoot." Drew Christie's elaborate "historic" display of "evidence" about the Elliott Bay Sea Beast—a toothy Loch Ness Monster—collected and compiled by one Albrecht "Aesop" Ribbentrop is sometimes too cute but mostly irrepressibly endearing in its refusal to try to be convincing. You can hear the sound of the beast (it roars and gargles at the same time), see drawings and photographs of it, even look at instruments made in its honor by sailors just moments before they were eaten by it. Hanging in the middle of the room is the beast's skeleton: a happily false thing made out of barely disguised wood, glue, and newspaper. "I shall be vindicated," Ribbentrop's writings declare. Done.

A trophy twirling around on its head, defying gravity, would be more intriguing were it not happening in video—a medium in which disbelief is a given. That work is by Zack Bent. Jana Brevick's devices for problem solving are not served well here; you need to know that Brevick creates jewelry to fully understand these devices as talismans rather than too-sweet mini-sculptures. (My favorite, because it so clearly doubles as a necklace, is her Optimizer, a choker with a black box machine for a pendant. What's going on in there, who knows?)

In a video and diagram based on the Brady Bunch episode "Out of This World," in which Greg fools Peter and Bobby with a fake UFO (until the authorities are called and Greg is exposed), Chicago artist Jonathan Gitelson debunks the realness of the fake UFO by attempting to restage the hoax himself according to Bobby's on-show instructions. Fail. Gitelson's illustrated how-to diagram leaves intact the secret of how to. It hardly matters whether there is life on other planets when there is the magic of TV, which is not diminished in the slightest by not being magic at all.

Samantha Scherer's photorealistic velvety black watercolor and gouache paintings are on thick paper that curls up at the edges like it's entrapping its only subjects, little white faces peering out from the bottom of the paper's black universe as if they were almost entirely cropped out, à la "reality" video stills or photographs. (Blair Witch style.) Scherer's employing the clichés of horror-vérité but making them work again, much like in an older series where she appropriated the parade of corpses on Law & Order and made them feel individual again in her tiny drawings. Something in her handcrafted and yet utterly mediated approach demonstrates a recognizable struggle: Familiarity and unfamiliarity can be indistinguishable. Which is the worst.
-Jen Graves


zack said...

good to meet you Jonathan! Hope to cross paths in the future.

jonathan Gitelson said...

Great meeting you too!