Observations from the In-Between
At Jordan Faye Contemporary through Oct. 19
The normally elegant galleries at Jordan Faye Contemporary have been transformed into a shrine of dudeness, or a temple to exaggerated manliness. Donald Edwards' Man Cave has transformed the back gallery into, well, a man cave, while T.R. Kaltreider's Observations from the In-Between feels like a secret SuicideGirls folder hidden away deep on Kaltreider's hard drive.
A treasure trove of woodsy man paraphernalia covers the walls of Man Cave. Shotguns, pistols, animal heads, a taxidermied bear and mounted fish, baseball bats, beer cans, and signed baseballs are hung and placed in the small room. The viewer can lounge on a couch with a hunter's plaid blanket draped over it, presumably to crack open a couple beers and talk about football or an upcoming fishing trip. Or whatever it is that men do in their free time.
It's all so expected of a place called "Man Cave." While the forms are familiar, though, their materials are not. Everything but the beer cans, bats, and baseballs is shaped trash that's been securely wrapped to stay in place. Most impressive is "The Elk," a massive elk head projecting almost 4 feet from the wall, complete with an impressive rack of antlers. From far away the pieces composing it seem random and uninteresting, but up close they are well-considered. The elk's nose is a piece of textured rubber, cut just so to resemble its real-life counterpart. Close examination of all the pieces reveals little gems. Embedded in the shoulder of "LA Bear" is a headless and naked barbie. The barrel of the shotgun "Quickie Colt" reveals where the name came from: Each word is the brand of whatever the original parts were, in this case, a broom handle and some mysterious metal tube.
The three things that aren't made from trash have also been altered. Edwards painted the baseballs, baseball bats, and beer cans with a splotchy, almost flowery pattern. A man cave wouldn't be complete without beer and some sort of ball-because what man doesn't love beer and balls?
Edwards plays with the cliches of how a manly man spends his time, namely, by shooting guns and drinking beer with his buddies. These objects so associated with masculinity might be wrongly classified, and perhaps Edwards is toying with that notion by making them out of junk. He makes the viewer think about what these things mean in their traditional context by giving us only their shapes.
T. R. Kaltreider's Observations from the In-Between is just as stereotypically dudely as Edwards' exhibit is, only with an alterna-girl spin that manages to be more objectifying than a room full of objects. Almost all the pieces feature a hot girl with tattoos posing in various generic locations: a bedroom, in front of a cement wall, next to a fountain.
"The First Time" hits you right when you walk into the front gallery, not because it's astounding but because its main component is a chunk of concrete sitting on a blanket in the middle of the floor. A painting on paper of a young woman propped up on one arm and smiling coquettishly is pasted onto concrete, and two empty beers rest on the blanket in front of her. It's an interesting attempt to meld the 3-D with the 2-D, but it falls flat. The blanket and beer try to lure the viewer into the generic first-time sex/booze/drugs/whatever scenario, but you run face-first into a concrete wall. The cutout of the figure is distractingly buckled, and the pose is just that: posed.
It's a problem that all of Kaltreider's figures and portraits have. The anatomy is just slightly off, the deviations not significant enough to be intentional. With such a focus on the figure, it's strange that the artist doesn't execute them in a more deliberate way. Instead, it seems like Kaltreider doesn't know how to paint the human-and especially female-figure. The marks are thick and without finesse, and in truth the works look like the portfolio of a high schooler. An AP art student, sure, but the works feel naive and without intent.
Kaltreider drew the figures on paper, painted over them in oil, then cut them out and pasted them onto various salvaged and found woods. The effect is almost unnoticeable, but once you do notice, it's distracting and adds nothing to the meaning of the piece. Kaltreider seems to be playing with collage and/or wheatpaste without actually going all the way.
Still, the aesthetic he's going for is clear: pretty girls with an edge. A pair of works titled "So I . . ." and "And Then I" each show a naked woman looking back at the viewer. Their gazes are confrontational but alluring, and they've got some serious, albeit generic, ink on their arms. "She was . . ." is a tatted-up woman in a little black dress holding her heels as she walks away. The overtly sexual images don't contribute anything to a conversation about the tropes they're drawing from. They don't offer a new take on the erotic; they don't critique the culture; they don't go beyond sexy women posing: hipster mudflaps. The one work that isn't sexy, "You Should Not Go in Fear," depicting a headless man in a pinstripe suit walking next to an arbitrarily scaled-down skeleton, is just as trite as the objectifying images. If the original Myspace were still around, these images would be right at home.
Kaltreider paints the figure in an art world rich with figure-painters and wheatpastes in a city full of street artists, yet he seems entirely unaware of what's happening around him. This seeming ignorance of context makes the work appear as if created in the vacuum of Kaltreider's headspace. Art as personal fantasy is fine if relegated to the spheres of deviantart.com or the wall space at a coffee shop. But it has no place in a gallery, where art history and context mean everything.
The two shows, both up through Oct. 19, are interesting together in a way that perhaps wasn't intentional. Man Cave highlights an aspect of the almost-ridiculous cult of manhood, whereas Observations from the In-Between gives a look at what an alternative-type man thinks is cool.