Paging Yolanda

by Eric Sutphin

Johannes Vogt Gallery
June 18 – July 17, 2014

Spry, colorful and  at times little sinister, “Paging Yolanda”, the summer group show at Johannes Vogt Gallery, was filled with work that straddled the line between irreverence and rigor. The exhibition took shape through a kind of curatorial game in which one artist was selected to choose another artist and so on until there were seven artists in sum.  If there could be an overarching aesthetic ascribed to the works in this show, it would be something like vaudeville-cum-provisional. This isn’t to say that all of the work presented was off-the-cuff or flamboyant. Call it sideshow abstraction, if you will.

Through the gallery’s dim entranceway which was, along its left hand wall. lined with a purple and chartreuse wall drawing made from illuminated wires by James O. Clark titled simply Line Drawing (2014) one entered the main gallery where, across the way, a long-limbed female figure leaned against the wall in a half-handstand: her arms extended, hands pressed firmly into the floor, legs bent at the knee and toes propped against the wall. This strange maiden clutched a pink vessel between her thighs, slightly above eye level which begged one to tippy toe and peer down into the basin where a single withered gardenia floated in a pool of still water. The figure was a ceramic work titled Georgia (2014) by Elizabeth Jaeger. The larger-than-life sized clay personage was glazed in a uniform matte-black “skin.”  This life sized clay “doll” had jet black hair, long black eyelashes and chipped black polished nails. The uneven surface suggested a hint of musculature in an otherwise gaunt and rather unlovely figure.

James O. Clark. Line Drawing (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.
Elizabeth Jaeger. Georgia (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.

In the same gallery was another light-work by James O. Clark. This one, a freestanding found object and neon work, resembled a cartoonish barbell one might see in an ironman competition. The bent neon tube was painted with a black leopard-like pattern and glowed pink- orange. The tube connected a series of three large pastel bouncy balls which stood in a pool of precisely tangle black wires which in themselves were a kind of floor drawing. The dialogue between this work and the adjacent sculpture (not to mention the prevalence of clowns, shiny synthetic surfaces and keyed-up color) added to commedia de l’arte vibe of the show.

James O. Clark. Res Ipsa Loquitor (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.

Brian Kokaska, who originally proposed the title of the show, presented three works which foregrounded the sardonic/kitsch aesthetic that pervaded the show. American Rose (Red Hair Truth or Dare), 2014 was a multi-part sculptural installation in a sassy bright crimson color. The sculpture consisted of a fetish-finish red plexiglass pedestal with a sad looking scarecrow-like head with a mop of limp red hair atop its head. Two crimson gloves were placed at its base; one resting against the pedestal and the other propped against the wall. The construction was offset by a bright red semi-abstract painting with leaf-like forms hung on the wall as a backdrop to the piece. In addition to this work, Kokaska also presented two found object paintings in the rear gallery. Emerald Moon (2014)  showed a clown face with crescent shaped eyes with four cheap plastic cat figurines in each corner. The other, Father Time (Endgame) (2014)  which was painted in shades of blue, featured a cartoonish flower clock with six blue steaknives affixed to the blue plexi surface. The paintings were set in cheap simple box frames into which the artist inserted colored plexiglass (green and blue) which unified the central images with a glossy, transparent finish.

Brian Kokoska. American Rose (Red Hair Truth or Dare) (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.
Brian Kokoska. Emerald Moon (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.
Brian Kokoska. Father Time (Endgame) (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.

Several of the stand out paintings in the exhibition included Harry Finkelstein’ s 12×9 inch oil and mixed media painting The Dinosaurs, (2014) as well as  Luis Miguel Bendaña’s Untitled (2014). Bendaña’s work, measuring a mere 10×8 inches, was as fresh a painting as they come with talismanic scrawlings in marker on a semi-transparent chiffon surface. Jasper Spicero’s laser-cut wood wall construction Untitled (2014) resembled a robot-turtle held together by bolts which registered as tiny, beady eyes that  peppered its “body”.  In the center of the creature was a circular cutout in which a photograph of the inner workings of some type of machinery, gears and cogs as its “guts.” Donna Hunaca’s fabric “paintings” incorporated the textiles from a durational performance series. Grey Gardens (2014) was made using a piece of smart grey fabric which was  stretched taut over a frame with an ivory “belt” cutting across it at a severe angle. A flirty swath of rose colored crushed velvet dangled like a wilted rose at its lower right corner.

Harry Finkelstein. The Dinosaurs (2014) Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.
Luis Miguel Bendaña. Untitled (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.
Jasper Spicero. Untitled (2014). Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.
Donna Huanca. Grey Gardens (2014) Image courtesy of Johannes Vogt Gallery.

I couldn’t help but wonder “who is Yolanda?” as I poked around the gallery in search of some clue. Maybe she wore something velvet? I suspected that she might be a 40 year old temp in the HR department of a cosmetics company; a can of Tab cola with a lipstick stained straw sticking out of it. Yolanda would have clutched her mid afternoon softdrink with her cherry red synthetic nails. Yolanda is a fiction, a fabrication, but strangely enough, her presence was felt in the exhibition as a buxom, good humored spectre who gets the job done but still knows how let her hair down and have a good time.

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