No Platform Just a Trampoline
Marcus Ritter Gallery, New York, USA
Here's a curious thing. I recently ate a burrito in a small Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village owned and staffed entirely by Chinese people, and the music blaring from the boom box in the kitchen was classic 1950s Americana performed by oriental rock stars. Fertile ground for French cultural theory, or just a normal fast-food joint in the maze of similarly charming, confusingly hybrid establishments that make up New York City? Curated by Nate Lowman and Marcus Ritter, the group show 'No Platform Just a Trampoline' played off the title of Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno's show 'No Ghost Just a Shell' at the Kunsthalle in Zurich last year. For the promotional image of 'No Platform', Bubbles the Jeff Koons/Michael Jackson monkey replaces Ann Lee, the animation bought by Huyghe, Parreno and other artists - and we are off and playing around-the-contemporary-art-world-in-80-references.
It makes an industrious kind of sense for artists deprived of a pristine white gallery space, and constrained by the economic restrictions of a studio practice, to expand the boundaries of their production by assembling carefully chosen bits of cultural ephemera into compressed fields of meaning. Take Saturo Chayavichitsilp's liquid plastic piece of Gothic fervour Anthrax (2002). Made up of little skulls and the Anthrax band logo, it is cynically kitsch while also being topically relevant. Dangling from the ceiling next to this was Brock Enright's Space Man Truck (2003), an exercise trampoline with the title Tipp-Exed across the surface in much the same way that 'anarchy' might be penned on to a school bag - a suitable piece considering the title, but also an object/prop taken from one of Enright's recent kidnappings.
Alaska-born Adam Stennet's painting Closer (2002) and his amenities cabinet If Lethal Reduce Dose (2002) are both calmly academic. Closer, literally a nocturnal close-up of one of the many mice Stennet breeds, is actually quite candid, though this kind of intimacy with a mouse is understandable considering Stennet's subject has remained the same since 2001. The dead mouse resting on the bottom shelf in If Lethal Reduce Dose is perhaps a warning of the perils of Botox, which rests on the top shelf. Originally exhibited as part of the 'Scope Art Fair' at the Gershwin Hotel, the cabinet was installed in one of the rooms as an alternative mini-bar with a then living mouse, presumably to be tested on. Feverish juvenile passions abound in Alex McQuilkin's Sweet Sixteen (2003), in which we see a committed young chanteuse presenting an angsty heart to an uncaring audience of grown-ups. Using her own flat as a stage, McQuilkin created a completely average teenage girl's bedroom strewn with girlie knickers and posters of cheesy pop stars. Surrounded by frilly bedding and flowery colour schemes, we're not really sure if McQuilkin has ripped out her freshly bloodied heart as a protest to the cruel marketing strategies that snag little girls' affections with dreamy pop idols, or if she is in fact a heartless little nightmare; a wolf in kid's clothing. Nate Lowman's Untitled (2003) connects the dots between areas of anthropological concern in a way that produces amusing and lucid results. Hanging next to a poster from the documentary The Real Cancun (2003) - a movie documenting the adventures of a bunch of horny white-bread teens in Mexico - is a canvas (a photo turned in to a work of art via Kinko's) of a Corona delivery truck pictured in the Lower East Side. Casting a critical eye on our consumption of neighbouring countries, Lowman also includes a quote from an American tourist, referring to the Euphrates river as 'a muddy creek'. Alongside an oil painting of Elvis' signature is a painting of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. The former is painted on to a T-shirt, which is then stretched around the canvas, and King looks as if he's been stretched out of recognition. Dividing the two historically important figures is the club logo for The Federation Of Black Cowboys, a real social club that meets regularly in Queens.
Right next to Sterling Hubbard's picture of overweight porn star Vixen Val (2003) sat Jean Cullen's rather beautiful hand-cut stickers of billowing ships at sea, which form part of a larger collaborative project, Mr L.A.M.F. (Mechanical Reproduction Like a Motherfucker) (2003). Finally, Sze Lin Pang's Crawl (2002), a museum barrier gone flaccid, scornfully assessed power rhetoric from the scruffy floorboards of Mr Ritter's endearing little space.
First published in Issue 78