David Opdykeby William Powhida
LOOSE ENDS| ROEBLING HALL
In Loose Ends, David Opdyke is a sculptor with a cause—the complete and utter failure of the current administration’s foreign and domestic policy. Opdyke’s lacerating vision is unleashed in a variety of highly detailed and specific critiques of what might be viewed as U.S. policy meltdown.
In another time the topical nature of the show might have resulted in some skepticism, but Opdyke’s political ironies seem necessary and easily justified. There isn’t much subtlety in the critique, as Opdyke targets oil, consumerism, and patriotism with his precise fabrications. In "The Grid" (2003) an array of electrical towers are connected pell-mell with wires that often end up connected to nothing at all. The sculpture parallels the antiquated mess that still services America, and seems as precariously balanced as its hanging base.
"Preemptive Product Placement" (2003) links our military actions with an insane foreign policy and the market. A bomb crafted from armor plates with corporate logos stamped into the camouflage makes it a more subtle critique of the secondary aim of the war in Iraq. The administration has awarded highly visible contracts worth billions to no-bid contractors like Halliburton. What hasn’t been visible is the line of corporations getting contracts to open Iraq’s market to American goods. This hasn’t been a secret as the administration has repeatedly declared its goal of opening Iraq’s markets and breaking its socialist controls, but it hasn’t been an issue.
"Oil Empire" (2003) turns the focus back on the country itself, indicting the nation’s utter dependence on oil and its complicity in current events. The whitewashed structure is composed of thousands of pipes, refineries, stations, and tanks forming a topographical map of the United States. Cities rise up out of the network as oil hubs. Oil dependence and continued use is the best example of the invisible hypocrisy of the left in its criticism of the right.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is "U.S.S. Mall," the most literal satire of the apparent aims of the war in Iraq. Atop an aircraft carrier, Opdyke creates a consumer army. Malls replace the observation decks, cars take over for airplanes, and tiny people are perched at the edge. The critique enters the realm of farce here, an absurdly overblown response to the war in Iraq equaled only by the war itself.
"Projecting Power" (2003) is a mass of satellites that cast the shadow of the eagle that forms the seal of U.S. currency on the floor of the gallery. The illusion is quite amazing, considering how it emerges from a disorganized mass, which seems to be a perfect summary of American policy. This piece dovetails nicely with Opdyke’s multimedia installation, "Two Fleeting Moments of Glory" (2003), where a small, twirling mass of stealth bombers on wires rotate in front of wireless cameras. The signals are projected onto the walls, and periodically the red, white, and blue planes congeal into the shape of an American flag. It’s a time-based reiteration of the shadow sculpture, but imbued with issues of surveillance and visibility.
Opdyke is a shrewd satirist of American policy and practitioner of obsessively accurate, post-Friedman sculpture. He eschews personal and artistic pathos for very public political problems. The real strength in the show lies in the artist’s ability to shape the critique into visually captivating objects.