“Elephants & Asses” at AR4T Gallery is the perfect excursion in the days before, or the hours after, casting one’s vote Nov. 6. With most of the show poking at the storm of media during election season, “Elephants & Asses” is a cacophony of 27 minds releasing an intense amount of tension that sounds like: Boom! Pow! Bam!
“Elephants & Asses” artist James G. Herbenar, 72, was born when Franklin D. Roosevelt was coming up on his third term as president and WWII was underway. Contrast that with artist Trace Mendoza, 26, born under the Reagan administration the year of the Tax Reform Act. This is the range of political reach of the 27 artists in the weeklong political show. This cross-generational exhibition offers lessons in American media branding, strong remarks on women’s rights and sad-but-true commentary on Political Power in the form of sucker-punching presidents.
Ironic participation comes from young adults who just “Don’t Care,” a.k.a. Joe Huebner and friends, a group of coolly unpredictable Orange County 20-somethings. Don’t Care is an Instagram-charged movement of art, stickers, t-shirts, comments and attitude based on the idea that surf and skate corporations have gotten so big that they’ve forgotten about stoking out the kids. A couple months back AR4T’s Torrey Cook first started a dialogue with Joe over Instagram when she declared she must get a hold of his stickers she was seeing around. In “Elephants and Asses,” four artworks appear under the Don’t Care name: A Mickey Mouse likeness, a word game scramble Black and White, illustrations on newspaper, and a slide guitar. I asked Joe what the slide guitar says about politics. He responded:
Nothing. That’s the point. That’s the whole idea behind Don’t Care. We don’t care.
An outstanding piece in “Elephants & Asses” really does care: Donkey by Camilla Taylor. In the presence of its stark ink and white animal skeleton that holds onto some last breaths of life I wanted to cry, so much actually, for her message about the Democratic party losing its identity, as well as its flesh and strength. Camilla is an L.A. print making maven whose 2-D and 3-D characters dance, in my mind, to slow, loud music. Donkey is a 2-D carborundum grit aquatint collagraph originally conceived for a President Obama fundraising auction at a private home in Los Angeles. She printed an edition of five. The way carborundum grit aquatint collagraph rolls off Camilla’s tongue, one might think it’s a process she invented in her downtown studio. Not so:
This style of collagraph involves painting with sand and glue, using a drawing as guide, onto a plate and then rubbing ink into the surface. The sand holds the ink, and the glue is slick so it won’t adhere. The plate is then run through a press transferring the ink from plate to paper.
An energetic background noise comes from the gallery corner and grows louder the closer one gets to Konami Presents: Political Power. A mixed media arcade game complete with soundtrack constructed by Luke Yates of Portland, Oregon, Political Power proposes to allow users to choose from pitting Rasta Clinton against Franken Roosevelt or Baby Bush Jr. with Ninja Washington. There are so many unanswered questions: what defense would Baby Bush Jr.’s pacifier have against Ninja Washington’s ninja stars? What kind of moves does Space Pirate Lincoln have? Can you change players if you feel like the one you’ve chosen has caused you to spend too much money, but then change back if you’re not happy? Does Rasta Clinton have a severe disadvantage in war zone levels? What are they fighting for, exactly? Questions like that.
I returned several times to a certain section of a wall-scale installation by Threee Brothers, a Laguna Beach trio of artists who represent the Nixon-born generation: Jorg Dubin, Mark Garry and Jeff Peters. Oversize campaign flare buttons made of wood and resin scattered across the wall announce America’s conjoined identities through logos and icons. The fantastic California-New York piece, New Yorker, asserts displacement as a sense of pride in shiny materials. The artists call the project the Unity Plan and offer it as a positive coming-together with these great ideas: “F— IT LET’S WORK TOGETHER” and “Give a damn.”
Now go vote!“Elephants & Asses”
Nov. 1-6, 2012
AR4T Gallery 210 Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651