PARADE GROUND | MARCH 15 – APRIL 14, 2013
There is refreshingly little curatorial handholding in Get Off the Lawn, a wonderfully haphazard group show at the young gallery, Parade Ground. The exhibition’s press release is the Irish folksong “The Ballad of Arthur McBride,” in which the narrator rejects the efforts of British military recruiters, and instead beats them up and steals their money. Meanwhile, the exhibit’s title evokes an authoritarian elderly archetype; immediate search results for “get off the lawn” include Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, uttering the words as he cocks a rifle at a youthful gang and reminisces about the Korean War. The show’s amusing title and refusal to distribute accompanying texts that gab away in jargon reads as a poke of fun at staid cultural institutions as well as an actual staking out of artistic territory.
Featuring nine artists and one poet, the work on display is understandably varied, though paintings and prints feature heavily. Much of the work is unified by an underlying sense of humor and a subtle but thorough engagement with material. It’s a combination of traits well demonstrated by Kellie Romany’s oil paintings, which resemble abstractions of reproductive systems. “Inked” (2012) possesses slightly ovarian overtones, while “Just The Tip”(2012) has the look of a phallic optical illusion. Romany conjures a lot with the minimal palette of dark browns and flesh tones, marking the canvas in a manner more suggestive of spillage and water damage than brush strokes. Another standout is Michael Bill Smith’s “Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone” (2011), featuring a false color image of the titular cardinal in infrared oranges and yellows on sparkling vinyl. Using vinyl’s malleability, Smith fringes the work’s bottom and folds the cardinal’s face like a horseshoe. An ingenious and hilarious touch is the cut out of Tarcisio’s hat, allowing the white of the backing wall to fill in its absence.
The show also has a number of slightly more somber pieces. James Powers’s impressionistic, silver-on-black painting of an aircraft seems to dissipate before one’s eyes. With “Shaded Sunset”(2012), Samantha Bittman explores color and texture, painting a tight circle of black and white lines against a color chart-esque background. Clifford Owen’s “Drawings with Joan Jonas”(2005) takes a process-oriented perspective; it’s comprised of drawings made by Jonas dragging about Owens with sticks of charcoal and graphite attached to his hands and feet. Henning Strassburger fittingly caps off the show; a pair of large-scale photos depicts Strassburger seemingly at work on painting in a number of different hotel rooms. A mimicry of seriousness and respectability, the artist wears an expensive suit or bathrobe and gazes into the camera with a pseudo-soulful expression. He looks a bit like a youthful businessman pretending to be the Joy of Painting’s Bob Ross, and definitely like someone with the audacity to say, “Get off the lawn.”
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ContributorMatthew Shen Goodman