Michael: Last Friday night in Baltimore was a scheduling obstacle course. Of the many events we tried to cram into one outing, we ended up sprinting through only a handful. Our evening kicked off with ALLOVERSTREET, a monthly event of simultaneous art openings, installations and performances that takes place on and around East Oliver St. We managed to catch the last bit of Emily Campbell’s solo show Imaginary Islands at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and then ended up at a semi-secret performance night at a DIY spot many blocks away. I’m not going to name that venue, because I really don’t want to get them in any legal trouble, but I will say that we arrived in the middle of a knockoff, one-man “Blue Man Group” performance happening in an alley garage and at some point purchased $2 gin cocktails (out of a mobile home) that may or may not have contained controlled substances. I have no idea how you made your bus in the morning!
Paddy: I was totally unaware I was consuming controlled substances! Catching the bus in the morning was easy because it was 45 MINUTES LATE. Thanks Greyhound. Getting to see all the art I wanted was the bigger challenge. Ultimately, we saw some good work, albeit not quite as much as I would have liked. Let it be known that a day in Baltimore is simply not enough time to experience Artscape.
440 E. Oliver St.
Lisa Soloman and Christine Tillman: Chroma
Michael: Our first stop on the ALLOVERSTREET train was a two person show that comprised installations of brightly-colored found objects and smaller mixed-media works on paper. Neither of us were very impressed. A lot of the work on paper looked really nice from a distance, but just wasn’t well-executed up close. There was a lack of finish or craftsmanship that seemed to make everything feel like an afterthought. That first impression softened a bit when I learned that everything in the show was collaborative mail art—Soloman lives in the Bay Area and worked with Tillman cross-country. The found objects were all submitted by participants and then arranged by the two artists. That explains what first came across as uneven craftsmanship and the slightly inconsistent nature of the work. Not to mention the logistics of transporting in-progress works on paper undoubtedly contributed to some of the quality issues.
Honestly, though, the presentation here doesn’t make a strong case for collaboration as a plus. I think that could have had something to do with the way things were hung: the display implied finished, precious objects (that didn’t come across as either) rather than a nod to process, which might be achieved with more theatrical staging? I’m not sure. This gallery was not designed for walls, and I always wonder why most artists resort to those instead of more idiosyncratic display strategies.
Paddy: Yeah, organizing all the materials you’ve received by color feels a little like organizing a show alphabetically; it suggests you don’t really have anything to say about the work. I’m not sure what theatrical staging would look like in this context, but if the end goal is to draw attention to specific pieces, I think that’s a better direction then what we see here. It’s not like this arrangement gives us any insight into parts of a system, so it would be better to isolate the objects that are interesting. It might suggest a taxonomy at work, and require more careful looking on the part of the viewer. That kind of experience is likely to be a lot more rewarding than encountering a rainbow mass on a wall.
405 E. Oliver St.
Gilding the Lily Curated by René Treviño and Stewart Watson
What’s on view: installations, videos, drawings, prints, and sculptures from Chivas Clem, Mary Annella, Frank & Francesca Bozzelli, Marian April Glebes, Jonathan Latiano, Trudi Y Ludwig, Jonathan Monaghan, Jefferson Pinder, Dan Steinhilber, and Jane Yoon. From the curators: “The artists in this exhibit use glitter, gold leaf, silver Mylar and other reflective materials in their work. These works literally sparkle and yet they also condemn or implicate. Often this work is a mirror that pointedly reflects our consumer driven politics or the ephemerality of our existence.”
Michael: I love nothing more than self-aware decadence, so the show was a hit for me. Discovering different glittery pieces scattered around the crazy-huge, industrial space was like finding gold in a coal mine. Or, rather, a cold beer in a condemned coal-fired power plant? Undoubtedly Jonathan Monaghan’s 3D looping animations stole the show. The Pavilion shows us a not-quite-right room that felt like the world’s nicest, most surreal Banana Republic flagship store. We literally had to remind ourselves of our time budget and force ourselves to stop watching Escape Pod, an epic loop that (begins?) with a golden stag being birthed from a sofa. We walked in while it was galloping across the desert with what could only be described as a baroque, prolapsed anus. There are some (obviously NSFW) excerpts and descriptions in our weekly NSFW GIF of the Hump Day post from yesterday. In the gallery, we spent a good minute describing the realism of the just-translucent-enough ball sack, complete with peach-fuzz hairs. And the soundtrack was amazing!
Paddy: Monaghan scored the piece to a bubbly electronic beat that suggested movement, which made watching a stag run against that soundtrack very satisfying.
A lot of the work in the show seemed aspirational. There was the cheap hanging silver curtain lit so it would cast long shadows in the cavernous space, and at the entry, Monaghan’s The Pavilion, a slow pan around a circular couch. Were it not for the window view in the background that looked out to a forest, I would have assumed it was an empty duty free airport lounge. The shelves look like they are designed to showcase aspirational brands like Ralph Lauren and Godiva, not store clothing.
Of everything, though, I agree that Monaghan’s Escape Pod stood out the most, if for no other reason than it was so utterly strange. That’s the way I feel sometimes when I’m around actual luxury and faux luxury—we live in a weird world—so I’m glad there’s an artist willing to make something just as absurd.
1515 Guilford Ave.
Beth Hoeckel: Lost & Tell
What’s on view: many, many unframed prints of collages, some framed mixed-media pieces with paint on photograph. From the gallery: “‘Lost & Tell’ focuses around the sharing of found artifacts that once belonged to someone else, and quite possibly were once in an entirely different context… Artifacts drifting in and out of other people’s lives, and potentially connecting unknowing strangers. The exhibit showcases collages, mixed media pieces, and prints that all utilize the found object. A curated ‘lost and found’ in the form of a personal ‘show and tell’.”
Michael: My first thought: what is up with all the found objects grouped by color that are everywhere recently? Paddy, if you go to the Storytelling Through Objects talk at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn on Saturday, ask this! I think Hoeckel has a great eye for design over narrative, and I’m more interested in the more minimal pieces where images are sort-of interrupted by a few dabs of paint, as in “Pony” or reduced to pattern. I’m thinking of the one with the lips on the pink background, which I believe was called “Charms”. The artist was wearing a top made out of fabric digitally-printed with that one and I like it even more in that context. They seem like a totally different series than the other collages that feature more intact figures, which read as a bit sentimental for my personal tastes. Overall, everything is very cute, and I think that works better when there’s a tinge of humor or the absurd.
Paddy: I dunno. In the context of this show, which was filled with collages of people sitting on rocks and watching the moon or the stars, I can see an argument being made for the few dabs of paint—it’s a nice break—but I don’t see them saying much on their own. This is okay work that leans on nostalgia too much, and suffers from being presented in an overhung show. The result was that nothing felt precious and everything felt familiar. I can get that from a photograph, so I’m not looking for those qualities in a collage.
1511 Guilford Ave (Copycat Building C side, 4th floor)
Sara Grose: No More Sun
What’s on view: real tropical plants, fake breezes, spray-painted t-shirts on a clothesline, beer and guacamole, a handful of black-and-white paintings, a couch, and coolers rigged to blow icy air up at your face. Oh, and the artist playing Mario Kart on a Nintendo 64 next to a creepy stuffed dog.
Michael: I think I love this all-grayscale room. I just wish the TV had been black and white! After a long day of walking around in the heat and looking at art, it was very nice to just lounge around a windowless, breezy room with limited visual stimuli. It felt like the reward at the end of an exhausting video game, appropriately.
This is sadly going to be Lil’ Gallery’s last show in this location. Overall, this whole ALLOVERSTREET was a little bittersweet. The event was really, eerily sparsely populated and not as many DIY spaces participated as usually do. I think a lot of artists were preoccupied with Artscape activities (Kimi Hanauer and Lee Heinemann, the organizers of ALLOVERSTREET, were busy running the PRESSPRESS booth at the Artist-Run Art Fair) and a lot of the usual art audiences were busy getting drunk in the street. That’s a shame, because typically ALLOVERSTREET is like having a mini art fair every month.
A lot of spaces in the neighborhood have also moved or closed recently—powerhouse Springsteen Gallery has decamped to the Westside and I don’t think anyone really shows art in the Annex anymore. A lot of the new yuppie neighbors make constant noise complaints and the police have begun cracking-down on the DIY happenings that had been resuscitating this neighborhood since the 1970’s. The big live-work warehouse buildings (historically the staples of the neighborhood’s cultural scene) have become ridiculously overpriced. When I first lived in this building in the mid-late 2000’s, a bedroom in a huge shared loft with tons of space for studio/events cost $190. Today, it’s more expensive to live in a two-bedroom (or even share a suite that sleeps 7) than to live in my building a block away (which is brand new, lead-paint-free, and has ample climate control!) While still drastically cheaper than Brooklyn, central Baltimore isn’t quite the bargain it used to be. And that’s driven a lot of my artist friends away who don’t see the higher prices as worth it when they could live on the fringes of larger, more glamorous cities like L.A. for what’s now just $100-$200 more a month.
Sorry, I digress on a gentrification rant, but I couldn’t help but see Sara Grose’s installation as a eulogy to the Copycat as it once was—a sort of chill-out, casual art-making fantasy come to life. Goodbye Lil’ Gallery, goodbye bohemian paradise—No More Sun indeed. But, Paddy, I’m curious to see what your take was.
Paddy: I’m not privy to any of that, but I loved the show. The words “No More Sun” are scrawled over top of a TV and video game console so the windows are naturally crudely rendered. If you weren’t already aware that the studio felt a bit like a coding bunker, this made that clear. For this reason, didn’t care that the video game was in color—that’s what keeps people out of the sun. I also liked that the plants displayed were the few that can survive with next to no light.
I saw the installation as a space for people who have lost their souls to the bunker. I assume that’s why the artist didn’t move much from her chair when we arrived. She’s stuck there.
Institute for Contemporary Art Baltimore (at Space Camp)
16 W. North Ave.
Emily Campbell: Imaginary Islands
Whats on view: Big drawings. Smaller watercolors. Both are populated by a cast of countless figures killing, fucking, or performing inscrutable rituals. .
Michael: I’m into these. I know we both felt like if we had seen one, we had seen them all, but I still like the show. Granted, I think I would have liked individual pieces more if I had seen them in a two-person show that might’ve broken up the monotony of that huge space. But what could one possibly pair this with? Every piece is illustration-like and renders sex, violence, and religion with an impassive same-ness that’s equally pleasant and unsettling. Like, you almost don’t want to like these, but they’re so pretty. All that content gets reduced to a mil flores of human nature—the fucked-up wallpaper that is our fellow man, against which we go about life. I think it’s poignant in Baltimore too—I can’t really think of another city where its denizens delve into hedonism with such enthusiasm against such a visible, adjacent backdrop of perpetual societal failure. Except maybe New Orleans, but for some reason people think it’s cuter when they do it. But there’s no judgement being passed by Campbell’s hand, which is refreshing and unnerving at the same time. They seem to imply that maybe—in the face of an overload of sacrifice-demanding-religious nuts and rampant violence and the decline of western civilization—we can’t really do anything but pick out the dicks and boobs like a game of apocalyptic-escapist “Where’s Waldo?”
Paddy: It’s pretty hard to pull off a room full of spartan line drawings and I’m not sure that’s been achieved here. That’s not to knock the work—it’s well executed—but I don’t think Michael Bilsborough could pull off a show of this size with his drawings either, and his work takes a similar stylistic approach.
I’m not as into this work as you are though. Most of the compositions aren’t very complicated and there’s little variation of form, so the work can feel formulaic even when you’re looking at a disembowelment or a lynching. The all over treatment of the paper doesn’t serve a show of this size well. I’d like to see denser areas and lighter areas be it in the form of clusters of people or areas where more line is required. The only variation we’re offered is color, and that doesn’t do much to address the compositional issues. Short story short, these are skilled enough, but they could be a lot better.