Thursday, May 10, 2007

2007 DeCordova Annual

Here’s my review of the DeCordova Museum’s “2007 Annual Exhibition,” the institution’s annual roundup of 10 of the “best, most interesting, and visually eloquent artists who work in this region.” Yippie!

As I wrote in the review, for me the standout is Jungil Hong of Providence. Affiliated with that city’s punky Fort Thunder art gang, she makes eye-popping psychedelic screenprint collages of Hieronymus Bosch-style apocalypses by way of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animations. (Pictured at top, “Tree Top Trading Post,” 2006. At left, “Miami Haze,” 2004.) People dressed in chain-mail armor gather eggs and vegetables and hang leaves to dry in landscapes dotted with windmills, malignant clouds, wolf-headed birds, black armies brandishing boomboxes, a leaf woman, a beehive, and giant gulls and crows. A wavy red pattern filling the ground makes the earth look to have been flooded with fire. Her work seems a mysterious allegory, a dream of scratching out an existence in the shadow of looming environmental collapse.

Another highlight is Fitchburg artist Jeff “Jeffu” Warmouth, whose 2007 video "Spudnik" (below) mixes animation and puppetry to tell its fractured tale of a Soviet-styled nation of potato people and their quest for the stars. “The desire for space exploration among the Potatoites has a long and delicious history,” the narrator declaims in that optimistic march-of-progress tone familiar from newsreels and science documentaries. Warmouth’s installation includes rocket models and photos “documenting” the Spudnik program — the “Unmanned Foil Satellite” is a ball of tinfoil with three metal legs that exploded on re-entry because “engineers had neglected to poke holes in the foil to prevent steam build-up.” Warmouth’s project is a light goof on museum displays, filled with groan-inducing puns and charming Sesame Street–style humor. Sometimes it’s too light and silly, but he keeps everything short enough that it doesn’t wear out its welcome.

“The 2007 DeCordova Annual Exhibition,” DeCordova Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, May 5 to August 12, 2007.


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