Ron Amstutz, Installation view, Right Roads and Wrong Ways Image via: Wallspace
What is the worst show currently on view in Chelsea?
Eliminating B and C list galleries from this group, I nominate Ron Amstutz’s Right Roads and The Wrong Ways at Wallspace as the strongest contender for that title this month. A performance and video artist, Amstutz creates confined sets resembling theater props which he then runs around on while documenting the process. He works with only 7 sets and repaints them continually. Exciting right?
It’s less interesting than it sounds. While watching someone climb up and down five stairs continuously may not be the most riveting art experience, the artists decision to match every prop and costume choice by opposition creates aggressively boring symmetry. Every visual scenario has a predictable resolution. A Black and white set, with a black and white costume, and even black and white Converse shoes; the only variation proposed is the performative act, which in and of itself is a stereotype of 60’s and 70’s performance work (particularly endurance.)
My biggest qualm with this piece however ties to the increasingly popular use of name brands in art, which then disrupt the reading of the work by communicating the message of the product. In the case Amstutz, his videos end up looking like Converse ads for artists. That’s a problem for a number of reasons not the least of which being that the viewer is left wondering whether it’s the value of the art that determines its worth or the branding of the shoe.