A New Kind of Art World Amusement in “DREAMLAND” at Garis & Hahn
Grace Schofield and Preeya Seth took stock of the state of the art market, and decided that it simply wasn’t fun enough; the duo are co-curators of “DREAMLAND,” the imagination-fueled exhibition currently on view at Garis & Hahn. As an antidote to what they see as an over-abundance of super-polished, cerebral work and the use of luxurious materials for not much more than the sake of luxury itself, they have gathered together eight disparate artists, linked by their embrace of the lo-fi, the humble, and, most importantly, a serious sense of playfulness.
These artists—including Sam Austen, Stefania Batoeva, Nigel Dunkley, Sophie Lee, Alex Rathbone, Guy Rusha, John Tiney, and Lachlan Thom—are also linked by the use of their home country, Britain, as fodder for their art. The title of the exhibition that brings their work together, and to the U.S. for the first time, is taken from a now-defunct amusement park in the English seaside town of Margate. In concert, the artists’ paintings, sculptures, films, and mixed-media installations animate the gallery space with a tattered carnival feel, urging viewers to drop the seriousness and give in to the lusty calls of eccentricity, fantasy, and imagination.
Guy Rusha, for example, could be said to provide a dose of sideshow freakishness with his amorphous, human-scale sculpture, Grace S (2014). Situated in the center of the gallery, this looming non-figure, composed of a lumpy mass of blue foam with two blue baseball caps stuck side-by-side to its upper portion, sits precariously on a wooden plinth. It appears, variously, as a great goggle-eyed monster, a thick cloak hiding something mysterious underneath, or an amply endowed woman. Meanwhile, nearby, famous cartoon nemeses Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner appear silhouetted against a wall in Nigel Dunkley’s One Hour Day (2014). Cut from colored aluminum, the hapless coyote is seen engaging the clever bird in his epic and endless chase. On a quieter note, Stefania Batoeva’s understated plaster pieces, Butt and Glass Shelves (both 2013), with their elusive, semi-abstract marks, skirt rationality, suggesting dreamy, childhood doodles. “You better be ready for everything that’s coming,” declares text appearing in Sam Austen’s delightfully odd and eerie film, A Door Has Opened (2013), recalling, perhaps, the electrifying dare of a carnival barker, inviting us to surrender to the fantastical fun of a world far apart from the everyday.
“DREAMLAND” is on view at Garis & Hahn May 7-June 14, 2014.