It can be hard to find humor in pressing issues that face humankind. A small sampling of these: our degradation of the environment; daily murders worldwide; and the consumerist ethos that seems to drive modern life. Leave it to artists to call out the irony of our collective state of affairs, and to do so with spirit and, yes, even humor. This summer,Allan Stone Projects presents an array of work by artists who tackle our ills—some of whom may leave you suppressing a grin.
Titled “Dancing with Dystopia,” the show includes work by nearly 25 artists. On view are paintings, sculptures, and assemblages. One standout among them is a mixed-media relief by Linda Cross, titled Unearth(1988). Dominated by tones of gray, rust, and blue, the surface of this piece is covered with an array of smashed and crumpled metal cans, containers, and other scraps. But while this recyclable mix looks convincingly metallic, it is in fact composed of paper mâché and Styrofoam, hand-formed and painted by the artist. Its title suggests that the consumer waste it features is connected to the land. Digging into the soil unearths not living, biological matter, but rather an unnerving human-made sub-layer of waste.
Soil is not the only thing that we have adulterated. As Derrick Guild’s strange sculptural concoction, Melon Lemon (2006), demonstrates, we are also frighteningly skilled at messing with our food supply. As its title implies, the work is composed of a melon (in this case, a cantaloupe) and a lemon. In a kind of still life arrangement gone awry, the lemon is stuck onto the side of the melon, and appears to be in the process of emerging from it, like a dangerous growth. Though both fruits are made to look ripe and appealing, this odd alliance suggests that such genetically modified foods are best left uneaten.
And what would a show with an edge of humor be without a work by the late Robert Arneson? Here he is represented by a small piece, Untitled (Brick with Finger Protruding, Puncture and Lumps) (1965). It consists of a brick, out of which a finger emerges. At once absurd and dark, in the context of this exhibition it suggests that we are trapped in the edifice of problems we have created—good luck trying to dig our way out.