Considering we live in an age of digital footprints, cyber-surveillance, and iron domes, I’m surprised that I don’t see more paranoid art. I see a lot of sad bunnies and suicidal bears, but I reckon that has more to do with our inner-child, lost youth, and other icky therapeutic garbage than anything dealing with Orwellian prophesy.Even more disappointing to me is the lack of any substantive political commentary from artists in the wake of events like Guantanamo, Katrina, the Arab Spring, or Newtown.
So, walking into Copro Gallery, this past Saturday night, and being confronted by the work of Jason Hite was like manna from heaven to me. I actually feel guilty about deriving so much pleasure from work so dire and angry, but I’m always relieved to find that there are still some pissed off artists out there. I seek out the rabble-rousers. Hite’s Game of Drones is a cast metal assemblage which places President Obama’s head, Oz-like, on a combat star. Directly below the head is an metal Xbox controller. The star itself is intricate and peppered with skulls, conjuring thoughts of Giger. At the top of all this is a ghostly crucifix amid a trinity of drones, and around the neck of Christ hangs a sign which reads ‘terrorism’. No matter what your party affiliations may be, this is a profound statement. Game of Drones is featured in Copro’s latest group show “Futurology.” The exhibit includes another, even more jarring, work from Hite called American Nightmare, in which a skull-faced Lady Liberty lords over a diorama of misery, that includes fluoride water tanks, RIFD hypodermic needles, protesters atop a toxic FEMA building. Bloodied, desperate hands reach out below. This is all framed with glowing tubes encircled by handcuffs. This is an artist pouring it all out, without regard for your comfort zone, and I’d venture to say that American Nightmare is something of a masterpiece.
The show boasts futuristic takes on a variety of themes by a number of artists. Some highlights being Chet Zar, Erik Alos, and Alexandra Manukan. It’s worth mentioning that David Richardson‘s The Art of War is Hollow Point complements Hite’s work nicely, and vice versa. I’m quite fond of Vincent Cacciotti , and his Unforeseen Future revisits his girl in a straitjacket motif, a particular favorite of mine. The work is strong throughout, but it’s those two Jason Hite pieces that will keep me up most nights.
In Copro’s adjoining room is Heidi Taillefer‘s “Land Of The Blind“. a dazzling, surreal examination of symbols, fables, and ancient philosophy. I had this friend years ago who, given any opportunity, would offer up the parable of the scorpion and the frog (from Aesop’s Fables) to illustrate some vague connection to whatever trouble you might be enduring. He would tell it so often that it actually became more salient with every telling. That guy eventually got ousted from his job by people he once mentored. He ended up being the frog. So, Heidi’s Trust Issues found me greatly amused. Her work is striking on a number of levels. It would be hard for me to convey to someone who hasn’t tried to paint before just how talented Heidi Taillefer is. They wouldn’t understand the hours of painstaking composition, the complex color triads, or the layer upon layer of glazing involved here–let alone the amount of thought that she’s put into these paintings conceptually. Yet, I watched at the reception the throng of patrons gravitate to these works on a instinctual, eye-candy level. If “Futurology” leaves you feeling wounded, “Land of the Blind” may just be the salve.
“Futurology” & “Land of the Blind” run through April 13, 2013Copro Gallery 2525 Michigan Ave. T5 Santa Monica, CA 90404 Hours: Weds. -Sat. 1-6pm