The best way to critique the absurd is with the absurd; the more flamboyant the critique, usually, the more potent the message.CoachTV, the Raishad Glover and Emily Eastridge “enterprise,” wastes few opportunities for flamboyance in The Buffet Allusion, the Howard Yezerski Gallery’s first show of the 2006 fall season.
This is typical for CoachTV, who I had the pleasure of being the subject of during a performance last January at the Midway Theater in South Boston. They have not deviated from their grotesque critique of consumerism and ideals of beauty. Along the wall adjacent to the gallery’s entrance, hangs the Slick, Clean & Seductive Series. Nine lit X-ray boxes, each with a translucent print of either Eastridge or Glover posing dramatically in a heavily and conspicuously ‘photoshopped’ image that combines them with popular household products or advertising imagery. In several of the photographs, Eastridge’s body, adorned only in satin underwear, gaudy jewelry and a wig, was made to appear thinner, yet intentionally mutilated in the photo-editing process. In the images, she prepares for consumption or imbibes a cleaning liquid. Combined with her sardonically stylized womanliness, made even more apparent by the light shining through them, the use of the cleaning products completes the works’ process of subversion through their use as poisons rather than cleansers.
Equally as poignant, though more succinct, is “The People of Port Lligat” (2006), a bullet proof vest with the logo for Always on the left breast. Yet not all the work is as cohesive; in “In the Studio,” a video-based work, Eastridge and Glover seem to simply languish in their studio while “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne plays in the background. Glover look to be smoking marijuana while Eastridge paces and dances around in an outfit one might see a four-year-old wearing at the beach on the 4th of July. The message isn’t clear here, and not only when compared to their other work in the show, though the silliness of this piece has an endearing quality if you can laugh at the activities of an uninspired artist duo searching for an idea or just wasting time.
Equally abstruse, yet more abstract, is “Greenface” (2006) a video of the digitally altered and soundless, though lively, faces of Glover and Eastridge in front of a ‘green-screen’ background. It is hard to place this work in the show; however, much of the work, aside from the X-ray box and bullet-proof vest pieces, does not fit neatly into a solitary theme. The show is indeed a buffet of sorts. With this show, they ask a lot of questions, and as the press release notes, they don’t bother answering all of them. (I really enjoy it when the press releases are written with such candor.) In their artist statement, Glover and Eastridge assert that this project “examin[es]the grey area of knowing” in order to “question the basics of consumption, entertainment and beauty.” And later, “The assessment and comprehension of these ponderings is determined chiefly by the individual that considers them. A single set of conclusions is as cognitively malleable as the original question itself.” Though this may not be a disclaimer, they seem to be informing us that the show is simply an epistemological experiment and not an attempt to deal with the issues raised in many of the show's works.
It is not uncommon for young artists (Eastridge and Glover’s mean age is about 25) to compensate for an apparent lack of substance, focus or even confidence by over-extending their work with rigorous scholarly explanations. (If I had a dollar for every time I read the name ‘Adorno’ in a painting student’s artist statement, I could publish my own magazine). Despite each of their works’ richness, they still grapple with their clarification with a disappointingly didactic statement. Howard Yezerski, who’s brought many young artists the attention they’re due has made no error in giving the relatively nascent collaborative, CoachTV, a solo show even for his gallery’s initial show of the fall 2006 season. The work is great, I just wish they’d dispense with the lofty talk and let the work do its work.
"The Buffet Allusion" is on view through October 10 at the Howard Yezerski Gallery.
All images are courtesy of the artists and Howard Yezerski Gallery.