09 February 2012
From what the artists call "a vending machine of myth, magic and mystery" comes our exhibition, ranging from the intricately finished large sculptures back to the irreverent sketches where their ideas are born. The exhibition features all manner of hybrids, puns and below-the-belt punches: large sculptures like “Sandwitch" may have started out as a collaborative doodle on a homophone, but realized in sculpture they reveal many strange nuances and details the original concept or sketch lacked. “Snow Manimal” may have come about just from the oddly relatable spheres of upper horse and lower snowman, but fit together physically so well that the visual and conceptual rupture created is all the more stark.
While the sculptures maintain the snickering subterfuge of a doodle, starting with one funny thing and evolving in all directions and sometimes back upon itself, the tiny sketches hung in the rear of the gallery are where we can watch the ideas start agglutinating. These sketches find one level more of elaboration in the poster works, oil on found images (stock posters printed on unstretched canvas) where the artists can go back and forth adding weird tidbits until the upset is complete (like a mountain erupting with cheese, a huge hat on a tree, a goat straddling its own poo pile). Here the collaborative nature of their working is most apparent and where the work feels funnest, in-between their one-upmanship of back-and-forth bizarreness.
The next level of complexity is the assisted framed pieces, where a sculpted and painted frame intersects with the odd painted intervention in the found canvas itself. A bevy of knives (kitchen and cutlass) adorn a large found painting of a penumbral tropical getaway, “Blue Hawaii”, suggesting the potential assault from both pirates and chefs, perhaps. An inexplicable assortment of fast food surrounds the romantic painting of wild horses charging across a rainbowed field titled “A Horse is a Horse”, drawing a visual line between junk art and junk food, (eye candy?) or maybe just revealing the craving for something more to "chew on" in the boilerplate painting.
In all the various types of work exhibited, the often comforting and mundane familiarity of the found objects is perverted by the input of Rosenblum and Seltzer’s handcrafted interventions, resulting in an unsettling world somewhere between laughter and horror. The parts are familiar but the forms they take are strange and new with a logic all their own: the mythical meets the merry, the religious meets the natural and supernatural; the delicious meets the deformed. Like gum stuck to your shoe, these works stick in your head (whether you want them there or not) and some details may haunt your quiet moments for a long time to come: the power cord coming out of the articulated, puckered butthole of “Snow Manimal” perhaps?
Curatorially, I see these works as "good bad": so wrong they're right. Their vibe is similar in concept to Heta-Uma (literally "Bad-Good"), a movement Japanese punk artist King Terry articulated. Something "technically" bad that challenges the notion of "bad" by being sensually and conceptually amazing: a wonky line often describes a face much more evocatively than a perfectly rendered photo-realist drawing, for example. In Rosenblum and Seltzer’s world, these hand-sculptured and not-quite-right forms—and even the "handmade" and wonky ideas that form them—are much more exciting than a fabricated (or logical) version would be.
Besides each piece creating a rupture in the viewer's sensibilities, in a larger sense the work stands out also from what is trending in galleries, from what their contemporaries are making, from what people expect them to make. The work shows them pursuing their own interests without the pressures of situating themselves within a particular discourse, without the pressure even of making work "about something". As Dan Colen wrote in his catalogue essay for Theo's first solo exhibition, the work is "honest, brave and generous... human and accessible."
Now that we mention it, the assisted found paintings have a relationship to Dan Colen's adjusted thrift store paintings in this kind of "dark Disney" world they both hang out in. Rosenblum and Seltzer’s piece with skeleton hands holding up an old bouquet is right out of Disneyland's "Haunted Mansion" ride, literalizing the idea of an Old Master painting coveted by a long-dead collector and the idea of a memento mori as a genre of painting in a kind of humorous tangle. Or “The Enchanted Picnic”, the classical painting of a nymph or dryad with an irreverently added bucket of fried chicken and some pink panties louchely twirling on her toe is wryly humorous, but combined with the detail of the painting seemingly bursting into flames, like the offensiveness of the graffitied classical painting caused it to hellishly combust, I mean it’s just, de trop.
And while the overall mood of the show involves the humor of being de trop, these artists always manage to rein in the insanity and conceptually push things just far enough, or rather perfectly too much. There are no extraneous elements in the works, everything is as it should be, the Frankensteined parts all link up perfectly and the monster springs to life!