Dos Pestaneos, which translates as "two winks" in reference to a knowing, insider sense of humor, is an art collective formed by Atlanta College of Art students Hope Hilton, Scott Lawrence and Andrew Ross.
By showing how art can play fast and loose with the truth, Illusion forces us to question how reality can be so easily shaped by an individual or institution. It asserts that we tend to believe the map, the photograph, the historical document, the postcard, the boast, the claim -- especially in a culture virtually ruled not by the thing itself but by the image of it. Use Your Illusion I is a reality governed by a combination of artist trickery and our willingness to be fooled.
This beautifully conceived and mounted show is among the best locally produced group exhibitions in recent memory. The works range from the scathing to the silly.
A priceless example of the cathartic pleasures in the latter is Miami artist Ben Fain's photograph "Fuck the World," in which a nude man appears to grind his naughty bits into the Earth. Another cleverly conceived lark is Andrew Ross' series of multimedia works fashioned in the style of a natural history museum exhibition, which addresses the devastating assaults perpetrated against humankind by the Australian "Double-Wattled Cassowary." According to Ross' wall text: "No other mammal, bird or insect has made specific evolutionary steps to combat modern humans with pernicious intentions." Ross uses a combination of imagery, including a black-and-white photo of the bird looking as guilty as one of Andres Serrano's Klansmen, to investigate this fowl phenomenon but with an underlying appreciation of the absurd that is pure Monty Python.
Like Ross, many of the artists in Illusion are natural mimics, able to replicate both the timbre and look of their sources. Chris Ramey's "Space Painter" is golden in that regard. It's a beautifully realized work in which the New York-based artist has invented a fictitious journey into space complete with photographs of the artist floating in zero gravity and NASA jumpsuit to prove it. Equally funny is the self-parody of the project itself. In an age of complete skepticism -- or, more often, complete disinterest -- in the arts, the idea that an artist could become a cultural hero is nearly preposterous. That America could care enough about art to produce a Space Painter action figure, as displayed in a glass case of relics, is farce of the highest order.
Illusion is both a trick you can fall for and a fantasy you give yourself over to in Anna Watson's clever investigation of the gap between the urgent, omnivorous teenage approach to beauty and sex and all the worldly pleasures they seem to promise. A world of plenitude is suggested in Watson's photographs of bikini babes, Britney Spears, centerfolds and beach bunnies plastered on a teenage boy's bedroom walls. There is a pathos in the juxtaposition Watson makes between this wallpaper of perfection and the imperfect baby-faced adolescent boys and girl seated beneath the images. In such an overwhelming mass, the images become oppressive symbols of an unattainable illusion.
There is a rueful element to Watson's work that finds social meaning in our subservience to media illusions. Tyler Gooden finds a formal line of inquiry in the abstract, quiet poetry of his video work "Ocean Implied" that removes the context of the sea from images of people cavorting in the surf, which leaves them bobbing and splashing in a great cosmic void.
A self-generated illusion of another kind arises in Scott Lawrence's distorted map of the world, which he has rendered from memory. As if guided by the unconscious agendas of his own nationhood, Lawrence has made both Canada and Mexico enormous and has failed to include a fair number of African countries. The artist's incomplete memory becomes a metaphor for the communal tendency to color the world through our own perceptions.
That very subjective view of the world in Lawrence's "Interior Map" couldn't be more apropos in a time when we are especially susceptible to interpretations of reality. In times of war, we become even more attuned to the often obvious and obnoxious phenomenon of media "spin." The strength of much of the work in Illusion is how it challenges our belief in spin as seen in Hope Hilton's "We Bleed When We're Cut."
Continuing her understated response to war in a series of five photographs, Hilton uses neutral, anonymous landscapes that are given a psychological weight by the pencil inscriptions below them which claim to identify their locations: Iraq, Bosnia, Cambodia, Selma, Ala. The locations reference strife, conflict and our willingness, through the simple distorting prism of our own minds, to read more emotionally, symbolically into the images because of that association with violence.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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