Sally Alatalo, Harvey Archie, Luke Dohner, Doug Huston, Jenny Knowlton, Meaghan Murphy, John Pakosta, Karne Reimer, Ken Rosenthal, Andrea Schumacher, A.K. Summers, Sonny Venice, and Annie West.
Refried is an exhibition curated by Tom Delinger.
Sexy, successful mass produced items are like successful art objects in that their existence as designed ideas is inseparable from their visceral appeal. The Cheetohs bag as design concept embodies and defines the food product that it is attempting to prompt our desire for (I chose Cheetohs because the level of artifice in the food is relatively equal with that of the packaging). The line between “product” and advertising, or “product” and label has become blurred to the point of extinction. The image generated to represent a product usually absorbs it during the struggle to achieve and maintain recognition in the marketplace, to make that leap from ad campaign to accepted label. The success of Ivory soap has less to do with that white bar of matter than with the letters engraved on its surface. An entire line of home bathroom products was successfully launched on the strength of a recognized organic hand lotion: Kiss My Face.
The 17 artists in this exhibition addressed the repackaging of mass-produced consumer and cultural goods. Artist Sonny Venice constructed a mirror-and-particle-board sculpture that represented a desk-top picture frame. Doug Houston recombined elements of an archetypal middle-class, mid-century lifestyle-cowboys and “sofa-sized” paintings. Harvey Arche’s monochrome generic landscapes were rendered in etching ink on porcelain toilet-tank tops, in an attempt to repackage the mundane. The National Enquirer, for example, is a recognized tabloid attempting to prompt our desire to read about recognizable personality products. (e.g. celebrities: also a high level of artifice, and also available at the local supermarket.) It is unclear at this point whether the tabloids package celebrities to sell tabloids, or whether the celebrities use tabloids to package themselves. The product and image are interchangeable in this case. Artist Kenneth Rosenthal’s mock-ups of the covers of The New National Enquirer in this exhibition are in-jokes about art-world personalities in supermarket-tabloid styles. The visceral assault is everywhere: we are being told what we need to have, to eat, to know. Our “lack” is being designed for us. You are what you eat, you eat what you choose? As a consumer, I am in cahoots with the blitz, will only purchase those products that I “trust.” Karen Reimer’s take on these assumptions were realized through etched steel food cans with excessively simple labels- “red food,” “yellow food,” “blue food,” or “leaves,” “stems,” “roots.”
The main problem with attempting to respond as an artist to this mass produced assault on identity is one of scale. Artists can’t ordinarily disseminate information or produce objects at the same level as any average advertising or production campaign. All they can do is use the concrete terms of discourse, consumer items, to create the illusion of and make reference to mass production. Luke Dohner’s assault on the concept of repackaging and scale was realized in his piece Winston Tower (Egyptian Style) which incorporated a pack of 20 filter cigarettes, stacked vertically in a three-finned tower six feet tall. Dohner’s Windy Scarf, celebrated the silliness of making an elaborate container to fit the arbitrary twists and scale of a beige knit scarf, suspended as if blowing in the wind. One aspect of the work of the artists in this exhibition is that it emphasizes the commodity as a designed thing, as having a high level of artifice, the tools of which can be used to undo the edifice. These artists use manufactured items as “raw” materials to construct statements that comment on the projected constitution of “need,” and with any luck to scramble the dictated definition of desire.