Sunday, May 10, 2015

Buckingham, Fein & MRSA at Jonathan Ferrara

Once, back when postmodernism was trendy, everything was considered a "text," and artists even made paintings that were just sequences of words. Recent word art by David Buckingham, Skylar Fein and MRSA, is more resonant, perhaps because they deploy time more like a color or a context. New York born, New Orleans-based Skylar Fein is known for monumental, often gay-centric, works like his 2008 Prospect.1 installation Remember the Upstairs Lounge, but this Giant Metal Matchbooks series of oversize matchbooks complete with matches with realistic rubber tips--are classic examples of traditional pop art.

Hinting at pop's roots in surrealism, these nostalgia-tinged icons of throwaway incandescence advertise consumer goods ranging from Budweiser Beer and Seven-Up to "Marlin Long 22 Rifles" as they ironically, yet lovingly, illustrate how traditional American commerce can morph into culture over time. Fein's collaborations with local graffiti artist, MRSA, on this Children of the Night series, is more complex, with wood relief wall pieces incorporating a crazy quilt of sliced and diced words embedded with iconic forms like product logos or even a Confederate flag. Here geometry provides the only formal order in what amounts to a view of history as jabberwocky, in which words of wisdom and derangement battle for supremacy.

Nola born, Los Angeles resident David Buckingham scrounges L.A.'s peripheries for colorful scrap metal like the bits he once cut from the Charlie Manson family's long abandoned school bus. A  former ad writer, words come naturally to him, but are now rendered as, sometimes ambiguous, commentaries in cut steel. Here rust-tinged, colorfully enameled letters spelling MEH!  suggest indifference as a kind of
spectacle; and a cheerfully colorful cross cobbled from metal letters says "Vanilla" if read vertically, but spells "Kinky" when read horizontally. If this seems nihilistic, his background with a cabal of anarchist welders may have influenced his acerbic outlook--a quality especially obvious in a piece that features multicolored dots that spell out a rude message, and another that functions as a parting shot: Shut Up! ~Bookhardt / Strike Anywhere: Giant Metal Matchbooks by Skylar Fein; Strong Medicine: Metal sculpture by David Buckingham; Children of the Night: Collaborative Paintings by Skylar Fein and MRSA; Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471.