April 2012: Through a Glass Darkly @ Postmasters Gallery


Oasa DuVerney, Single White Mother, 2010. Graphite on paper, 19.25 x 14 inches.
Courtesy of the artist.

Oasa DuVerney / Julia Kul / Jayson Musson
Through a Glass, Darkly
Postmasters Gallery
March 31 - May 5, 2012

The press materials of Postmasters Gallery peg the three-person show as an “abrasive and confrontational examination of race, nationality, otherness and social hypocrisy, its direct blows softened by humor or implied generosity of the artists.” Abrasive and confrontational, fair enough. The humor, however, doesn’t soften as much as it does attempt to distract from the lack of cohesion in the show.

Oasa DuVerney provides the most focused work here. Her Illustrated Guide to Not Being So F*cking Racist combines drawings with bold statements about racism. A drawing of a mother with her hair weaved with the hair of her daughter is accompanied by the words, “Don’t pity single white mothers with biracial children… more than likely they love their children and don’t feel stuck with a black kid.” Another drawing highlights two black kids in a class photo alongside the phrase “Don’t mix them up.”

While the blunt statements aren’t necessarily enhanced by the literal illustrations, the statements make strong points about race that aren’t easily forgotten. DuVerney’s series of MILF videos also explores controversial territory. In one video, a black mother props herself up on a counter to wash the floor with her hair, gyrating her hips sexually to generate a scrubbing motion. The piece appears to make a statement about single mothers in the working class. The overall series, unfortunately, confuses and seems like it could have been developed further. The gallery’s slipshod assembly of the films, which play on LCD panels that are blank half of the time so the viewer must wait for them to restart, doesn’t help.

Julia Kul, Artist as a Restaurant, 2012. Wall drawing, permanent ink, size variable, 11 x 10 feet as installed.
Courtesy of the artist.

Julia Kul’s Artist as a Restaurant is a large hand-written restaurant menu scrawled on the gallery wall. The piece appears to propose things the artist will do hypothetically, such as, “The artist will clarify why one Saturday morning all kids in Poland, instead of cartoons, watched a military official on TV.” The cluttered handwriting complete with cross-outs make it difficult to read. It’s uncertain whether these items happened to real artists in Poland, or if they’re bits and pieces from Polish history that Kul wants to highlight as unjust.

Kul’s videos are amiable enough, one in which she lip syncs to a Mormon instructional film about marriage; another where she creates a list of commands starting with the letters and numbers from her passport and then acts them out, but the videos meander and leave the viewer confused. Kul makes her statements indirectly. “Direct blows,” these are not.

The contributions from Jayson Musson, known to some for his vlog series Art Thougtz by Hennessy Youngman, only serve to bring down the achievements of the other artists. Viewers will be confused when they read Musson’s long rants that have been printed out on wall scrolls and hung between the other pieces of art. Musson’s musings stray from his usual topic of art, to write about mundane things from his personal life, such as falling out of love (a piece that ends with the sentence “I love being a turtle. COWABUNGA!) and the conversations he has with his Star Wars poster, which concludes with “I really need a girlfriend.” The curators must have included the blog-like essays in hopes that they would serve as a commentary about the blogosphere, but the subject matter seems out of place.

 

Through a Glass, Darkly professes to challenge serious issues but never really sinks its teeth into the material. The humor leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, casting an ambiguity over the exhibition.

Jayson Musson, Art Thoughtz with Hennessy Youngman: How To Be A Black Artist, 2010. Single channel video, color + sound, running time: 8:43 minutes, edition of 5 + 2 AP. Courtesy of the artist.
 

 

Dan Tarnowski is a writer and artist in Brooklyn. He runs the small publisher On Lives Press and is currently working on a collection of short fiction.

view all articles from this author

Reader Comments (0)


Your comments. . .


Your First Name (not shown):
Your Last Name (not shown):
Your Email Address (not shown):
Your Username:
 
 
 
 
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief
  
Noah Becker Art Noah Becker's Whitehot Magazine Of Contemporary Art