That’s another thread that comes through here, a sense of disruption that “technological progress” has wrought. Online we can be anonymous but also rootless. We can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook but be completely alone.
An installation from London-Based Morag Keil expresses this melancholy sense of disassociation. Several crumpled mannequins, some without faces, appear to be suffering through a long subway ride, while an antiquated machine makes a repetitive rubbing sound. Technology just can’t change certain realities.
A literal bridge to the next room comes in the form of a “runway” from Frankfurt-based Lena Henke. The artist created this site-specific work for MOCA. Runways hint at high fashion, glamour, the latest in taste. But Henke has crafted her runway out of steel grates covered with blotches made from dirty-looking epoxy and cement. Once again, it suggests that while new technology is supposed to let us create a perfect form or system, human fallibility shows through.
Following in that line, Los-Angeles-based Andrea Zittel has made some truly lovely “imperfect” shelving hanging in another one of the cordoned gallery spaces. She is known for experimenting with functional structures and furniture, such as her Living Units, small, pod-like portable “rooms” with only the basic necessities included, that can be folded up into the size of a large trunk and transported. Here her off-white shelves look intentionally handmade, with rounded corners and uneven edges, that are meant to “evolve with use.”
In her other pieces in the exhibit, such as the billboards and the woven-cloth booths, Zittel incorporates rust, gold and brown colors that are reminiscent of 1970s color-schemes, those shag carpets and kitchen wallpapering of that era — so not 21st century. There is something so comfortable about the negation of contemporary high-technology in these works.
The next room is the weakest. While the popular New York artist Josh Smith’s large street-art mixed-media on cardboard works, often repeating his name and that here cover one wall, are all the rage these days, they don’t seem to fit. It’s also hard to follow how the large paintings of Miami-based Jason Galbut really relate to the theme of the show, as appropriately loose as it is.
But if these are a mismatch, the last room makes up for it, and then some. London-based Jack Strange has created two Frankenstein-like creatures. (Dr. Frankenstein and his experiment was, after all, one of the first fictional expressions of modern man’s unease with the possible effects of new technology). The couple are made from huge mounds of dirt, with blinking neon lights for a mouth, the only “human” attribute. The installation is called Good Haircut, Bad Haircut, and it is funny and fascinating. Dirt is the polar opposite of the materials that go into the making of satellites and smartphones and LED lighting. Until we discover the secret to mortality, we’ll all return to this most basic and organic of materials.
The other work that shares the room is a video from New-York based Ian Cheng. On its surface, it is simply gorgeous. But Thousand Islands Thousand Laws riffs on video games, and as it unspools, tells a tale of a swamp world with a lost hunter and a cast of swamp animals. It’s mesmerizing. This is a work commissioned by MOCA and Gartenfeld, now in the museum’s leading role.