The Volta Show N.Y. 2010.
VOLTA is a tightly focused, boutique exhibition of exclusively solo projects.
Its theme this year, “No Guts, No Glory” extols the artist and galleries who still refuse to play it safe in troubled economic times.
Catching my eye as I entered the exhibition was a video of Todd Pavlisko nailing his foot to the floor. I asked him if it hurt when he pounded a steel spike into his foot with a hammer. He said it did, even though he didn’t scream or cry in the video, but did wince in pain for several minutes.
He said the hardest thing to deal with was the puddle of blood that stuck to his flesh like glue as he pulled his left foot up when he was done. A diminutive, tattoed Brooklynite with glasses and a bald head, Pavlisko explained that he had a doctor on hand to cauterize the hole in his foot after he performed the self mutilation, having researched the best spot to hammer the spike, so as not to cripple himself. I mentioned that I once stepped on a long nail sticking up in somebody’s dirty loft, which went thru my leather boot and out the other side of my foot.
That didn’t really hurt at the time, but it left a black spot on the top of my foot for six months, until I scraped it out with a needle.
Pavlisko seemed to enjoy talking about his work. It was nice to meet and talk to an artist while first encountering his art.
In the same booth was a large acrylic on canvas of Steven Hawking floating by himself in the bowels of an aircraft in free flight. The work claimed to re-enact a media spectacle of Hawking experiencing simulated weightlessness, freed from an assisted-living wheelchair. Other paintings by Pavlisko of Joe Lewis and Richard Pryor resonated with a subtle discordance.
A visceral narrative of pain and conflict informs Pavlisko’s work.
Down the hall, Frederico Solmi from Barcelona presented a Russell Love collaboration; eight jagged black frames filled with video images of a vomit encrusted crudely animated cartoon hell called DOUCHEBAG CITY. An insane video game depicts someone named Dick Richman, assaulted by armies of deformed oversized insectoid robots with accompanying commentary:
“You are an insatiable and corrupt Wall Street employee. You’ve been banished to live in Douche Bag City. Your vicious behavior has caused terrible suffering to the community. Now it is time to face the consequences. Your dirty tricks are responsible for screwing up millions of peoples lives and causing the suffering of countless hard working people.
Your mission is to survive the torture that your behavior has brought onto you.”
In an alien environment carpeted with money and splattered body fluids, barbaric demons attack while guns blaze and bodies explode. Dick Richman rotates with a rictus grin, covered in blood while MISSION FAILED and BURN IN HELL fills the screen. Everything is intentionally ugly, raw and bleak, an accurate depiction of life in 2010 corporate America.
“MONEY, STOCKS & WEALTH ARE MEANINGLESS” scream words filling the video monitors.
Nearby, a miniature calliope with decapitated politicians and dictators revolves while a doll of the pope with a giant erect penis sodomizes them.
A few feet away, a plexiglass cube filled with salt water holds a human skull covered with five multicolored corals while a live shrimp walks around.
Created by Mathias Kessler, one of five editions represented by a gallery from Frankfurt, the piece is called “Nowhere to Be Found.”
In another booth stands an elegant monument to power and youth by a Swedish artist named Karl Tuikkanen, who bought a used high-end 750 model BMW off the internet, then shredded the car at a recycling plant, separated the heavy metals from the debris, melted it all down and poured it into a mold of a giant penis ejaculating silver cum.
The black, six foot high sculpture on a rounded and square base, took four years to complete.
Tuikkanen tracked down and interviewed the last four owners of the 800 kilo BMW for an accompanying video, discovering that it originally sold for $160,000 in 1991.
By 2006 the BMWs value had dropped to $3,000.
Such cars in Sweden briefly were big league status symbols until their value dropped and they became exclusive playthings of suburban criminals.
In Stockholm, when Tuikkanen drove the vehicle, police would often pull him over.
One sees phalluses in every culture. The final piece unites commodity fetishism with erotic power, transforming the criminalized Diamond Swords 181 metal into a monument of modified car culture.
In another “avenue” of the show, Dawolu Jabari Anderson displayed fake comic book covers as oversized posters showing superhero characters as racial stereotypes: Uncle Remus, MAM E, and Tar Baby.
Chambliss Giobbi’s half analogue, half digital images of twisted faces and nude women were a dizzying collection of convulsing representational forms defying all aspects of reality, creating a neo-Cubist tour de force reminiscent of of the decadent, grotesque and emotionally turbulent work of George Grosz, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud.
Other pieces that impressed me at VOLTA were Penny Lamb’s doll in a gold room, photos of nude girls by Boris Hopper, Soyoen Cho’s plastic fork sculptures of light and wire,
Xie Caomin’s big paintings in oil, metallic mandalas depicting images composed of twisted and broken metals, and Chicago artist Rachel Niffenegger’s weird faces painted in watercolor.
by Monica Casanova