Sunday, July 15, 2018

Mitchell Gaudet at Studio Inferno

Mitchell Gaudet's sprawling Shooting Gallery show can be disorienting. Part penny arcade, part armory and part alchemy, its mix of pop nostalgia and vintage esoterica ultimately takes us to our current gun culture. It is a journey that veers from oblique elegance to in your face shock and awe in a vertiginous array of works can pack a hefty punch that may surprise art buffs more familiar with Gaudet as a glass and mixed media artist known for his reliquary sculptures involving antique plaster saints festooned with cast glass mementos. A related flair for visual time travel turns up in his large, vintage-looking Apothecary Jars. Recalling the pharmacy vessels once used for “cures” like leeches or mercury tinctures, these are filled with AR-15 bullet casings and topped with statuettes of figures firing pistols.

Pistols also set the tone in more pop-looking works like Target, a traditional bulls-eye studded with cast glass handguns surrounding a pair of hands pointing fingers in opposite directions. More pistols abound in wall panels that suggest police department forensic evidence but are actually arrays of vintage cap pistols, those nostalgic icons of baby-boomer childhood back when affable westerns like Zorro or Bonanza were the most violent TV shows. Fast forward to our now routine mass shootings and we find ourselves in a nation nobody in 1950s America would recognize.

That leap from nostalgia to carnage is epitomized in Little Red Schoolhouse Shooting Gallery, a primitive penny arcade-style shooting range adorned with the National Rifle Association logo and slogans for arming school staff to shoot intruders. Featuring vintage toy rifles and the animated silhouettes of school kids instead of ducks or wildlife, it is a new kind of gun range with “Rules” like “Shoot the Shooters,” including warnings like “Deductions for Hitting School Kids.” It is gut wrenching stuff, but Gaudet, a 9th Ward native, Holy Cross High School graduate and a former captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, understands that something is clearly wrong. Shooting Gallery reflects the unique perspective that only a sensitive artist who is also a veteran military officer could bring to this most chilling social issue of our time. ~Bookhardt / Shooting Gallery: Mixed Media Sculpture by Mitchell Gaudet, Through August, Studio Inferno, 6601 St. Claude Ave., 945-1878,  Related: Ex - Congressman Ok With Arming Preschool Kids With Guns