Zefrey Throwell’s Interactive Indictment of the Film Industry

The artist Zefrey Throwell is known for his intensely focused brand of conceptual art. He has staged nudist performances on Wall Street, and—in response to the death of his drug-addicted father—he has created portraits by mixing crystal meth and his father’s ashes. Now, the artist is investigating the associations inspired by our love of the modern cinema. In his current solo show at Garis & Hahn, Throwell offers an incisive commentary that is less abrasive than some of his other work, yet is underwritten by a sharp intellectual framework. 

In a nod to the conventions of the narrative arc, the title of the show, “Plotting,” interrogates the film world through stylish and hyper-polished conceptual projects, taking aim at the ways movies are constructed and consumed. In one series, graphic posters offer a choose-your-own-adventure-style set of options for a story’s central plot points: the way a character dies, their underlying motivations, the gender of the protagonist. Viewers of the show are presented with darts and encouraged to participate by using the diagrams as dartboards, creating their own works nearly by accident. An attendant film, Let’s Stay in Tonight, Honey (2015), provides just one option for how this process might work out; its take on erotic cinema has been based partly on a found diagram from a 1970s detective manual.

A second set of equally bold posters uses graphic design and linguistic trickery to render the meaning of well-known movies incomprehensible. Dubbed “Cinema Puzzles,” through these works Throwell decontextualizes elements of famous films and scatters plot points and key words across broad, painted canvasses. The puzzles are surprisingly difficult to crack and, maddeningly, the gallery has been given a strict mandate not to divulge their answers—just the sort of taunting mischief that has been central to much of Throwell’s work. Through this breakdown of the cinema, the artist, even in such a seemingly whimsical series of games, invites viewers to meditate on their desire to see the same ideas repeated endlessly on screen. He indicts not simply the film industry and its ever-repeating conventions but also our emotional responses to it.

—M. Osberg

Plotting” is on view at Garis & Hahn, New York, Apr. 2–May 2, 2015.

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