Monday, June 21st, 2010
Barry McGee doesn’t watch TV. ”These are all things that Americans do, they sit at home and watch television, they go into work the next day and everyone talks about what happened on Taxi—that’s one of the last shows I watched on television, sorry.”
Mcgee is known for overwhelming his audience with an inundation of mind numbing geometric clusters that visualize the psychological and social effects of media bombardment. Like the troubled characters found in them, looking at these works can leave the brain both exhausted and confused in a cognitive haze that Jerry Mander predicted would ultimatley lead to the expansion of power by dominant controllers in society.
Have we been manipulated, or are we to blame? As Neil Postman later distinguished, Orwell’s vision of the future and Huxley’s Brave New World were not one in the same. One warned that we will be overcome by externally imposed domination. The other prophesized something far more unsettling – that we will come to love our oppression, freely trading in our capacities to think for the technologies and entertainment we cherish.
Mander urged us to be radical – to “kill our televisions” and dismantle technological civilization. Postman warned it was getting too late – we had already willingly given up and “amused ourselves to death.” Lately, McGee seems caught in the middle. His chaotic wall static has been disrupted, yielding to dense blocks of solid red, with only broken, fragmented shards of pattern remaining. These have given way to simpler forms – a few small floating cubes, a single triangle or an octagon. There are even recognizable objects like detergent bottles – the ultimate sign of the never ending mindless consumer choices that have replaced actual freedom of thought. If the pessimism of his work from the last few years rendered us helplessly adrift in a violent media frenzy, these newer installations show McGee pushing back against the noise, urging us to break through the clutter, recognize our own complicity, and regain control.
Partner in life and art Clare Rojas explores similar new territory. The empty interiors of her recent paintings suggest spaces to be filled. Stripped of their belongings, we are pressed to find any identity in what remains in these barren rooms. In one painting a figure lays in bed staring at a TV on a nightstand. Another shows a simple house suspended against a white background. One sad looking woman sits at an empty table, while another reaches out her hand towards a garden of flowers. In an alcove, a woman’s face is partially covered by window blinds. In the same area, walls are cleverly paneled in central air vents and light switch or outlet covers that take on the look of morse code dots and dashes. But what does it all mean? While McGee reveals the brainwashing of our collective conscience, Rojas projects the effects of this dumbing down onto the trappings of domestic living, where we’ve cashed in our free will for freedom at the checkout line.
It is interesting that the Bolinas exhibition is being presented with two separate titles. While this isn’t the first time the artist couple has shown together, the two have joined here to deliver what is there most seamless presentation to date. When asked by fellow artist Andrew Jeffrey Wright where he’d like to be in five years, McGee said he “[hoped] to be entirely removed from society by that time. Off the map. Checked out.” With Leave it Alone we can understand why, and with Rojas’ Together at Last it’s clear that if the time comes, the two will disappear hand in hand.
Lots more images over on TAC member Gamma888′s flickr
Barry McGee – Leave it Alone / Clare Rojas – Together at Last
June 19 – August 1
Hours: Fridays – Sundays, 1 – 5 pm
48 Wharf Road
Bolinas, CA 94924