Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Spell Check at Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, New Jersey
My first visit to Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park was a pleasure. I kept thinking I was in Santa Monica, perhaps because I could smell the sea and had the distinct urge to go surfing. The exhibition was filled with about every sort of contemporaneous text you can imagine. Visitors immediately were met with Ray Geary’s F-U-C-K piece (pills in plexiglass) on the table by the door with gallery notes and price list! Behind you was Geary’s S-I-N below belt level. This was intentional. Stealing the show was spray-painted picture, Ashes by the modest young artist, Jonny Ruzzo. They must be selling like hotcakes! If it had been a large silk screen, I would have pegged it for one of Warhol’s graffiti series if there was one. Russo’s other piece Heroin completed the abject theme. His other work owes a bit to Karen Kilimnik. These were exemplary of the cross over of  “street” and gallery work. 

Basquiat (tag, SAMO in the early 80’s) brought graffiti to the art world big time. It flourished and we have had a burgeoning of inside/outside art ever since. San Francisco artists, Barry McGee and the late Margaret Killgallon, are two of my favorites. Another single word piece by artist, Jessica Lichtenstein’s was problematic for me. As a red blooded (hetero) critic, her L-U-S-T piece messed with my head. As a nerd, I enjoy Manga cuteness and goofy Miyazaki films, so the inclusion of actual “porn” sullied an ironic “innocence” even if it was meant to be tongue in cheek. L-U-S-T was also partly suspect because the intention was so obvious. Appropriating Manga (the sex-filled variety) and filling the word LUST ain’t subtle. Spinning the topic differently is clever and bound to challenge borders but seems an anathema. Though, the issues certainly remain apt for a new audience.
Text and Image have been linked in art history since early stone relief. It stayed healthy as illustrated Medieval manuscripts. The forms separated somewhere in the Renaissance but don’t quote me. Recently, the graphic novel and zines put them back together in book form. Tatts now (ubiquitously) combine them again on skin. This renewed use of assemblage is a great thing for visual culture but perhaps not so much for the novel itself. 

Ryan Cronin has the funniest artist bio I’ve ever read. His work is pop-like, healthy images of beer labels. Artist, Bri Cirel summed up the show’s semi-erotic subtext with a painting of the Venus de Milo, My Eyes. Funny, especially since she has been missing her head for a few thousand years! Of course, the nude has been a staple of art since ancient times. One wonders if the Ancient Greeks were seeking ultimate beauty or a quick turn on ­– they had their own gender issues. I can’t make a fair comment on Arabic script used over images of fashion models by artist, Porkchop. This is, of course, politically charged but also reminded me of a foundation art course. Let’s face it images of women are charged no matter what the intent. The issue of objectification of women is also charged, if unresolved.
I’m not sure another neon word-piece helps or hinders the show but they are topical these days. Dare, I say pretty collectable ever since artist, Bruce Nauman’s, seminal neon piece from 1967, The True Artist Helps The World By Revealing Cosmic Truth. Tracy Emin makes them now too. She’s saving up for a retirement home. I haven’t made a neon sign yet but I am thinking about it! It might be titled, How Do You Turn This Damn Thing Off? Or perhaps a low wattage, neon piece for a kid’s room that says, Night Light!
Use of words by outsiders has been picked up by Urban Outfitters and signs are now commonly for sale in Marshalls and Target. They have greeting card sentiments and we are meant to hang them in bathrooms. I repaint them with rude sayings or write obtuse phrases in the wrong place for a sense of mild irony. Artist, Keith Scharwath produces work in a similar vein; small, inexpensive acronyms. Freud’s “Uncanny” is another matter. The whole of Asbury Park might well be called Uncanny!
Parlor Gallery deserves praise for showing work of this caliber outside a metro area – Philadelphia should take notice. The show certainly puts paid to the idea that there is nothing at the shore but sand, sun and Sangria and the occasional surprise appearance of The Boss at the Stone Pony!


Belle Starr said...

Hello James~
Thanks so much for visiting Parlor Gallery and your wonderful & witty review of the exhibit! Laura was kind enough to share. Just wanted to let you know that the text in the artist Porkchop's work is actually a "language" and series of symbols and fonts created and conceived by the artist over the years which nods to Sanscrit, but is not Arabic in origin. His work of late has been focused on a fantasy world of Aliens/Future peoples dominated and ruled by powerful women and these are their symbols and one of many means of communication. It's more complex than that, but won't go into it here! Also wanted you to check out Ray Geary's neon "ob*nox*ious" which was not in our show, but we have exhibited in the past. I think you will enjoy it and it has multiple settings which flash and blink and are slightly seizure-inducing.
Again thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review. Please say "hello" again next time you visit Asbury!
Warm Regards,

James Rosenthal said...

Thanks, Jill. Appreciate the corrections about Porkchop. I knew I had that bit wrong!