Paranoia, Planes, and Parachutes
Brian Reedy farcically hashes out the end of the world as we know it in his new body of work where man, nature, and technology collide calamitously in the aftermath of a warped seismic cataclysm.
The drawings, paintings, and woodcuts in "Eleventh Hour" at the Dorsch Gallery project the sense that damnation is around the corner and an ungodly disaster might be crashing the party.
Combining science fiction, pop comics, fantasy, and a feverish imagination, Reedy engages in bizarre visual high jinks that give pause in a climate where war, terrorism, economic uncertainty, and famine fray the nerves of contemporary consciousness. Nuclear annihilation, UFO invasion, catastrophic natural disasters, and capitalism run amuck hang over his quirky narratives like the sword of Damocles. Reedy, however, carves through the theme of modern civilization's near-collapse with an undeniable wit, as if dispelling our darkest fears with Prozac dispensed from a gumball machine.
Near the gallery entrance six small ink-and-colored-pencil-on-chipboard works weave words and wacky imagery with provocative results. Collectively titled Eleventh Hour Drawings, each panel unfold its own sorry saga. One of the pieces depicts a snarling, muscle-bound frog flexing his pecs over a choking grasshopper who is hacking up his own innards after being body-slammed. The words What's my name? appear in the upper right corner as if a taunt to the vanquished insect.
Another work, #2 with a Bullet, is a tip-off that Reedy loves nailing the bull's-eye with a demented scatological pun. It shows a hunched and straining robot firing a 9mm round from his tin tail into Pikachu's back. Pokemon's yellow-bellied buddy flails his scrawny stems as the bullet exits his pelvis like a comet trailed by guts. In Destroy All Planets, a fugitive from a Sixties Japanese horror flick crushes the Earth and moon in its claws.
A deeper immersion into Reedy's postapocalyptic world conveys visions of lethal mutations, biodegradation, overpopulation, financial collapse, foreign invasion, and technological implosion. The scenes they depict play out like low-rent cousins of outtakes from campy low-budget movies or the occasional Hollywood blockbuster.
Resonating in Reedy's works are echoes of Albrecht Dürer's Last Judgment series, William Blake's The Devil Is Come Down, and Gustave Doré's Revelation Six. One even catches a sulfuric whiff of those civil defense posters from the Cold War era featuring lurid mushroom clouds blooming over American cities, or the reek of Spielberg's recent remake of War of the Worlds.
A marker-on-paper piece, Shit Storm A.D. 2025, features a horned monster that looks like a cross between Godzilla and the Thing of Fantastic Four fame. The beast looses a river of diarrhea that washes away airplanes, crowds of people, and buildings in its rushing flow. In another marker-on-paper drawing nearby, three drunken toads carouse arm-in-arm as a city burns in the background.
Marking a departure from Reedy's traditional printmaking process is a series of carved and painted mixed-media-on-wood pieces that employ the woodcut blocks used for printing as the actual work. Where All Roads End depicts a mountain with the fanged face of a monster in the center of the work. The sky is painted crimson red, and the craggy creature's eyes and mouth are covered in gold leaf. Two roads lead into its gaping maw. On one road a row of animals scamper to their destruction as a trio of sheared tree stumps bespeak a woeful eco-disaster. Cars drive into the darkened abyss on the other road as buildings crumble in the background.
Next to it is Nothing Will Survive. This piece draws on a recurring scene of nature taking its revenge by showing a volcano blowing its stack. As the lava swallows everything in sight, a building shaped like a dinosaur roars in anguish to the left. To the right, a bald, isolated tree bends in the scalding air to rescue a deer and a bear. Two of the more interesting mixed-media-on-wood pieces depict hybrids of rapacious beasts and deadly weaponry, which patrol Reedy's bleak wastelands for fresh victims to terrorize.
In You Better Run, a Bengal tiger's head is mounted on a tank's turret and spits red thunderbolts at the viewer. The killing machine is fronted by a buzz saw and rotates daggers and handguns in multiple paws like a Ferris wheel as it mows down enemies. A gorilla-cum-steamroller fitted with rockets for arms vomits fire in another piece, asking why he shouldn't lay waste to you.
In an age when crackpot survivalists honeycomb hills, cultists hoard strychnine for suicide raves, and illuminati reptiles in government predict terrorists will bring down the sky, Reedy's Chicken Little commentaries offer a sidesplitting antidote for those awaiting the end.
Also showing at the Dorsch space, "Take Off" marks John Sanchez's first solo show and features paintings of airport scenes in various formats. The works have a blurry atmospheric quality that combines abstract and figurative elements in visually serene yet psychologically charged snapshots. And they leave one yearning for a human encounter or life-enhancing moment.
Perhaps it is the lack of people in the pictures that lends a sense of tension and cloaks the works in a palpable silence. Many of the paintings depict views of airplanes from a variety of angles. Works such as Precipitation executed in dingy grays and whites and portraying aircraft on the tarmac under an overcast sky can convey a sense of dreary solitude. The planes are viewed from the rear, and their reflection is almost imperceptibly caught in a pooled veneer of rain suggested on the ground. There are no workers nearby, and the air seems leaden with inertia.
Home features a frontal view of a commercial airplane docked at a airport gate. Once again, there are no passengers in sight. Crisp red and blue lines stand out sharply on the craft's nose. At the top of the canvas, effortlessly applied yellow paint drips downward, muddily suggesting an early-evening arrival and a dullish rather than vivifying environment.
A more energetic piece that seems to vibrate with a quality of interior life is Leaving. This small painting depicts what appears to be an airport shuttle in transit, seen as if through a car window. The painting's bright colors shimmer with movement. As the bus heads toward its destination, the street lights, painted off to one side, glow in a pattern of circular white swirls. This work was by far my favorite in Sanchez's exhibit. It provided a nice contrast to the eerie sense of melancholia and detached loneliness present in most of the other paintings, which is odd considering airports are among the best places to fold oneself into, if not get lost in, humanity.
At MoCA at Goldman Warehouse, "Natalia Benedetti: Luminosity" is the artist's first solo museum show. The exhibit comprises two videos on continuous loops projected onto nine-by-twelve-foot screens. Flexibility and Lightness depicts Benedetti skydiving. Luminosity is a fluid study of sunlight as it ripples across the surface of a lake. Both works are shown together, which creates an engulfing experience enhanced by a soundtrack of rushing wind.
The scale of the works creates a sense of meditative contemplation. The howling wind that cuts through the gallery space adds to the sense of being outdoors in the thick of the action. The viewer watches as the artist, strapped to an instructor, jumps from a twin-engine aircraft at 18,000 feet and freefalls at 125 miles per hour. The figures twirl and tumble through the air like addled acrobats, the velocity of their descent betrayed by the flapping of their clothes. On the other screen, a dazzling light dancing on the lake's waves mimics the intense rippled snapping of the skydivers' garments.
The sensory-seducing sounds and vast expanse of sun-dappled water on one screen juxtaposed with the gorgeous blue sky and shimmering coastline on the other transport the spectator to a space somewhere between Heaven and Earth with a sublime thrill. They also trumpet that Benedetti has parachuted into her first solo museum show with head-turning aplomb.
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