Sunday, September 11, 2016

2 Freaky 2 Friday at Gallery X

Is identity-based pop art getting to be old hat? Yes and no. While graduate schools and galleries have long contributed to a glut of such work, gender and race perceptions remain the wild cards that fuel many of the social tensions we still face today. At a time when we may possibly elect our first female president, the startlingly misogynistic corporate culture recently exposed at a major TV network—amid a no less startling uptick in toxic rhetoric epitomized by a rival presidential campaign whose CEO* runs an online "news" site notorious for racism, sexism and bigotry -- suggests a throwback to a dark and sinister past. Most of us never imagined living in a time defined by such starkly divergent tendencies and trends. 

Gallery X's 2 Freaky 2 Friday was inspired by Freaky Friday, a 1976 mother-daughter role reversal film later reprised by Lindsay Lohan. It focuses on how “women’s public images are created, presented, and consumed.” It  coincidentally illustrates the endless complications surrounding the way identity issues are perceived. In that vein, some accompanying texts helpfully reveal that Tameka Norris' hip-hop video, Screening Room, harks to how she felt as a black girl at Yale, and that the soul sister vocals on Hanna Black's My Bodies video, above, accompany a mythic journey through an all too material and polarized world. Starting out with floating head shots of white business dudes like a vertiginous PTSD nightmare of scary CNBC flashbacks, it segues into hip mythoetic riffs reminiscent of the Egyptian Book of the Dead with an R&B soundtrack, making it one of the more persuasive works in this often cryptic exhibition.

Faith Holland's Chelsea Manning Fan Art Series, top, explores Bradley Manning's transition, from a U.S. Army intelligence specialist imprisoned for sharing secret documents with Wikileaks, to a transwoman now known as “Chelsea.” Here animated GIFs with hearts and sparkles accompany images of Manning's head montaged on to Lady Gaga's body, and while visually engaging, the complexity of the issues posed by such works might be baffling to many casual observers without curator Amanda Brinkman's erudite text guidance. In Sara Clugage's large jacquard tapestry, Adam Kadmon, left, Britney Spears miraculously appears with mystical Kabbalist verses, apparently because Clugage had been moved by Spears' personal evolution in recent years. But will her faith in Spears prove a slippery slope now that her Make Me video is out? Time will tell. This show takes a lot of chances and some work better than others, but at a time when the speed and complexity of our techno-culture has had the perverse side effect of trivializing much of our lives into "Likes" and emoticons, it can be refreshing to see an art show that flaunts a more militantly esoteric approach. ~Bookhardt / 2 Freaky 2 Friday: Contemporary Conceptions of Female Celebrity, Through Sept 18, Gallery X, 1612 O.C. Haley Blvd., 252-0136. *Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is Chairman, director and co-owner of Breitbart News