Common to all the works presented in REBEL WALTZ is a humorous play upon the familiar. Symbols, logos, street signs and refrains recur, but in each case, something shifts in the reproduction of stereotyped significance. Observing the presence of death in the circular waltz of life, removes nothing from the devastation of death and destruction, but the oxymoronic proximity of joy and loss brings to the fore the death-defying levity of life: humor.
Chun uses industrial embroidery machines to create complex narratives in pieces composed of fabrics, leather, plastic, and spray paint. In one prominent piece on display, Polo Cuu Sao, a tankman with jet-hands cuts through space, slicing a woolly cloud with a red army star. The embroidered calvary of Ralph Lauren rides onto the scene, as if the hordes had come in polos. Chun’s rendition of Picasso’s Dove of Peace is stitched to the surface above the calvary of capitalism. The backdrop is a skyline sprinkled with the transient pleasures of the metropolis. It is difficult to look at Chun’s works without reading multiple narratives in them. This quality is the effect of Chun’s imaginative weaving together of ideological symbols, knock-offish reproductions of brand icons, and cartoonish characters that may or may not pertain to the stockpile of broadcasted visual entertainment. Yet, the playful layering of scenes gives way to a gaze that is anything but naïve. Is there not an army of Ralph Lauren out there? Playing on the question of reproduction and illegal copying in the age of the global fashion industry, Chun’s work urges us to examine the force of the brand image and its stereotyped and seductive value on the creations of our imagination.
Gabrielle Graessle’s bright figurative paintings and drawings have something decisively liberating in their childlike attitude. Mixing acrylic paint, glitter, and spray paint Gabrielle’s canvases are like windows, opening onto the force and optimism of free association. Like the creases in worn garments, our mannerisms or our habits of association, artistic expression and style draw ever closer in the repetitions that make a practice. Repetition however is not without ambiguity. There is something mindless and impersonal to repeating forms and gestures, yet repetition is a key to singularity and style. For Gabrielle, choosing to play as a practice materializes in a characteristic sense of independence that accentuates quirks to the point of character. In Geht Allein In Die Weite Welt Hinein, a pink airplane stretches across two connected panels. The naked canvas above the airplane is adorned with light blue cotton clouds, crowding below is a rising field of spray painted flowers. The soft edges and bulging stomach of the monochrome pink airplane gives it a plush, toy-like cuteness. Written above and below the airplane, are the words of the famous German nursery song “Hänschen Klein.” Only the tense is changed from past to present. [Little Hans] “geht allein in die weite welt hinein” [goes alone into the wide world]. With an echo from somewhere between the nursery and the trope of coming of age, the written words frame the pink airplane as a transitional object between the imaginations of our inner life and the reality of the external world.
Dominik Scharfer works in resin, acrylic varnish, spray paint and modeling clay and foam. The result are panels where thick textures demarcate and accentuate extruding forms. Frequently relying on contrasting colors and materials, Dominik’s dynamic motives are at once lighthearted and analytical. Take for instance the spray painted figures, against the viscous resin surface they seem destined to a vaporable existence. In that sense his clear expression substantiates the twisting remakes of street signs and commercial posters. In Achtung Kinder! Dominik uses thick layers of paint to build the deformed features of two characters. The extruding letters in primary colors are reminiscent of kindergarten, but there is something uncanny to the “ACHTUNG KINDER!” as it frames this violent scene. Is a street sign not the most concrete example of what Foucault named the dispositif? That is, a structure (institutional/administrative/epistemological) that secures and maintains the exercise of power and a dominant order. Normally this sign reads: “Achtung! Kinder'' [Warning! Children]. By shifting the place of the exclamation mark, Dominik shifts something significant within the power of the familiar and recognizable sign.
Repeating and re-making or re-applying familiar signs, refrains, and logos, the artists gathered in REBEL WALTZ open a plane stretching from the comedic to the uncanny. The comedic, in extension of laughter, has been understood as a punitive and corrective phenomenon. Henri Bergson thought that laughing corrected or punished people who had gotten rigid and stiff in their behavior. Encountering “something mechanical encrusted on the living,” we laugh, Bergson wrote, to shake up the living from its ossifying and conservative tendencies. Today, we have rectified this tendency in commercial objects and devices, making repetitive behavior a condition of “functional” and “effective” living. Playing with the objects and refrains that hail global standardization and uniformity the artist may make us laugh, they also may call upon something uncanny. Lindsey Lou Howard’s ceramic sculptures often revolve around food objects. In her practice Lindsey Lou questions our cravings, and the shapes our insatiable desires have taken as the need for nourishment has been replaced by cravings for marketed consumer goods. In her “concretism” literally translating names of dishes and sayings, Lindsey Lou’s work is both mouthwatering and indigestible. The ceramic Devil’s Food Cake Altar on show is no exception. It is a potent joke on indulgence and excess, playing on the artificiality of our most familiar desires.
Text by: Sandrine Hansen, writer and philosopher.