Oasa DuVerney / Julia Kul / Jayson Musson
Through a Glass, Darkly
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’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.
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