My first impression of "We Made It", the first exhibition for fledgling Second Gallery, was: "I'm too old to get this show." No, Charles Giuliano has not hijacked my body, and yes, I am still under thirty, but there was something about the vibrancy and immediacy of the work that spoke to a younger me. As much as I enjoyed a quick dip into youthful energy, I also knew that there was a perpetual distraction and short attention span that came with that energy, and that trying to focus on any of the work for too long would become impossibly frustrating.
The artists themselves seemed to be aware of this aspect of their work, and during the reception artist Andy Meerow even commented "I don't like things that are hard." This statement could be applied to any of the work in the show, whose material elements were composed largely of cardboard, scraps of wood, found objects, acrylic paint and other inexpensive, 'easy' media. Even the video work carried a specific 'lo-fi' aesthetic, which is growing more common and identifiable as iMovie brings video editing to everyone.
The largest installation in the show was made by the collective Paper Rad, whose list of past exhibitions is impressive and long, and includes the Whitney Museum, Deitch Projects, Pace Wildenstein and many more. For "We Made It" they present a floor-to-ceiling 'wallpaper' of painted cardboard, cutout figures, and a video animation. The images seem to be drawn from childhood iconography, and either represent or imply characters like Garfield, Super Mario Brothers, Saturday morning cartoons, and other vivid, simplistic shapes. Cartoon-y letters form nonsense words that seem slightly dirty, yet also invoke the posters found on the walls of kindergarten classrooms.
The soundtrack to the gallery is provided by Frankie Martin's music video, made in collaboration with the homemade pop-star Juiceboxxx. This video, which layers the antics of Juiceboxxx amid a collage of textures, patterns and images, blares a catchy pop-tune that would not sound out of place on the radio were it remastered by Rick Rubin. Like the Paper Rad work, the video goes for immediate satisfaction, and time spent watching for deeper meaning or larger statements about the desire to be famous or the accessibility of tools for creating the myth of fame yields little.
Diane Carr's sculptural piece "Yard", which fills the floor in the middle of the gallery, is an intricate garden made of velcro strips and felt. It is reminiscent of the set designs of children's shows, and a fun piece to examine in detail. The fantasy world created by the mixing of materials and the bright colors held my attention longer than most of the work in the show, but it's delicate understatement was overshadowed by it's proximity to the Paper Rad installation. It is the type of piece that could have a room to itself and be quite engaging.
A 'lo-fi' aesthetic and a short attention span pervade the exhibition in such a way that the viewer becomes accustomed to looking only at the surface, and not hoping for much beyond the color and texture. Andy Meerow's sculptural collages of found materials, Michael Mahalchick's sewn cloth pieces inhabiting the rafters, Brendan Harman's cardboard and photo installation, and Ezra Rubin's video slideshow all invoke quick and joyful responses, but don't invite any further investigation and are passed over as quickly as something new grabs the eye. They are visual candy.
In many ways, it is very appropriate for Second Gallery to open with a show of such young work. The gallery director, Rebecca Gordon, is young herself, and as a new alternative space Second Gallery is obviously trying to bring in the more energetic art school crowd. That most of the artists are from outside of Boston speaks to Gordon's interest in using the gallery to showcase work by artists that may not get seen in our city. We'll have to wait and see if Second Gallery also uses it's place as one of this city's few alternative spaces to also promote and nurture young artists from within the scene, but Gordon has already promised exhibitions by Liz Nofziger and a complete takeover of the gallery by The Berwick Research Institute in the near future, so it is clear that Gordon has a big picture in mind that is worth supporting.
"We Made It" is an exhibition of eye-candy, and a fun start for a new gallery. If you are looking for a vivid exhibition of youthful ideas, this is the perfect show for you. If you want to support a new gallery, and be a part of their first foray into Boston's alt-scene, make the trip to the Distillery and check it out. It will make you feel young again, for better or worse.
"We Made it" is on view January 28 - March 10, 2006 at Second Gallery.
Images by Big RED & Shiny.