Perambulating the Bounds

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Couple of Watkins Senior Shows

I finally got over to Watkins to see a couple of the student shows.

Mai Lick has an utterly likable exhibit, Earthly Delights. It's a dizzy paean to things that are bad for you--sculptures of candy, cupcakes, pills, lollypops, and cigarettes (and real condoms) piled up, with paintings of the sweets, all of it done in a palette that needs a name--sugary pinks, reds, oranges, greens, it made me think of Amy Sillman's colors, but this pops up lots of other places. The parts also reminded me of Wayne Thiebaud's cakes and Red Grooms' stuff, and the accumulations of material made me think of Vadis Turner, who's on my mind since they included several pics of her work to go along with my article in the latest issue of Number (now discretely stacked in galleries all over Nashville). Mai makes a point that's kind of obvious, but worth making, that all this stuff that's bad for you is undeniably pleasurable. That's why we want to indulge in these things. Pleasure gets drowned out in the emphasis on fear.

Fear runs through all of Adam Nicholson's work here. It's an extended riff on government secrecy and conspiracies going out of control, taken through an interesting lens--Dwight Eisenhower's promotion of the interstate highway system and his warning against the military-industrial complex. Nicholson includes several cartoon-style narrative drawings, sculptures, and video. They cast the interstate highway system as a kind of invasive growth that wraps its tendrils around the folds of the human brain and that introduces "development" that really consists of knocking things down, all the while people work in underground labs on fantasy weapons. The capstone element is a sculptural bust of Eisenhower perched on a stand made of auto parts--seat belts, shock absorbers, wiring. The exhibit as a whole sure has a strong paranoid element, casting the interstate highway system not just as something wracked with unintended consequences, but part of the takeover of society and politics by shadow forces trading destruction and liberty for profits.

These exhibits will probably be up through the weekend if you are in town and can swing by Watkins.


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