"Dissent: Political Voices" Diverse and Thought Provoking Art at Spaces

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Thu, 04/28/2005 - 18:43.

Spaces latest show “Dissent: Political Voices� brings together a nearly overwhelming number of artists who address a wide range of political and social issues in their works. As expected the Bush administration and the war in Iraq are the inspiration for many of the works, but sexism, racism, homelessness, the risks of GMOs, and human rights violations are just some of the other issues addressed.

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“Dissent� was curated by Kristen Baumlier and Craig Lucas and is presented in conjunction with a special online interactive space developed in partnership with Twist creative. In the online space you can preview the exhibition, print your own catalogue, watch videos, communicate with the artists and answer the call to action. I kept in mind the curators’ statement as I walked through the show: “can political art be provocative enough to effect action among individuals?�

As you enter the gallery you are greeted by a huge Mickey Mouse created by artist Billie Grace Lynn. No Disney souvenir, this Mickey, made with ripstop nylon and inflated by a fan, wears camouflage pants and lies in a pool of blood on the floor. Dead Mouse (2003) occupies the most prominent place in the gallery and can be seen inside the gallery and out. This work has many layers of meaning – including the way it can be viewed through the glass of the gallery window as if it is on TV. Images of war have become as ubiquitous in the American media as Disney characters. Could it be that our Epcot Center visions of the rest of the world have gotten us into this situation?

Three artists, Kayrock, Jet Scharf, and Michael Smith have revised the 5 color homeland security alert systems and created something much more visually interesting.Their New Homeland Security Advisory System uses 25 paired color squares. Viewers can familiarize themselves with the new color combinations and their meanings by using a computer in the gallery. The seriousness with which the military views such symbols is significantly diminished by the artists’ re-presentation of them in the friendly format of a computer screen. But perhaps there is some truth to the format and presentation: will Homeland Security warnings someday soon be sent to us through email?

Jason Byers work makes a direct connection to Cleveland. He renders a tank harmless -even vulnerable - by casting it approximately 5� H and 8� L in suet and birdseed. He then photographed it in various outdoor locations around Cleveland. Three of his digital photographs were framed and hung on the gallery wall. The suet tank (yet unravaged by wildlife) was displayed on a shelf nearby. The most interesting of the photographs depicts the tank by City Hall and the Free Stamp by Claes Oldenburg. In it the scale is distorted so that the tank appears to be nearly as large as the Free Stamp.

 

Amy Franceschina raises awareness of the risks of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) through Pinga, an Internet game and action figure she has created. During opening night many gallery goers tried out the game. Later that weekend, I was inspired to check out other works by Fraceshina at www.futurefarmers.com. At this site Fraceschina and other artists sell and promote their art and design work – not all of it is related to GMOs.

 

Several artists in the show use newspaper in their art – on the most basic level it is a way artists can manipulate and subverting the mainstream media. Rutherford Chang, who was born in Houston, Texas and now lives in Beijing, China, cuts political images from the newspaper and reassembles them in abstract forms. What were once faces of “suspects� and “terrorists� are rendered unrecognizable. With the original image now gone, the media is the message. Artist Cheryl Yun has made a line of ladies handbags out of newspaper. Her sculptures are finely crafted and quite witty. Each purse is a unique style, and has a unique print appropriated from the pages of a newspaper; conflicts and tragedies, religious and political challenge consumers views of fashion, wealth and the feminine.

 

Within “Dissent� is another fascinating mini-exhibition. Jason Kucsma, editor of the zine Clamor Magazine has curated a show of Midwest zines. Kucsma is from Toledo. The eight zines on display are treated as art and are given a rare level of respect. Viewers are allowed to page through most of the zines using white cotton museum art handlers’ gloves (a few of the zines must remain in plastic sleeves).

“Dissent� is one of the best shows to open in Cleveland in a long time. It is not a show to stride through quickly, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time or better yet see it more than once. Spaces is located at 2220 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, in a warehouse just north of the west end of the Detroit-Superior Bridge. The show runs through June 10th.

Space Lab, a small gallery in the back of the building features an installation titled “Lifestyles� by Rosemarie Chialone and Susan Weinger. Although “Lifestyles� is an exhibit separate from “Dissent� the two shows fit seamlessly. Chialone (the artist) and Weinger (the poet) have created what appears to be the living room of a hip urban loft. The brick walls, hardwood floor and high ceiling of the galley compliment the installation. Upholstered chairs and benches are arranged around a glass top coffee table. Two martini glasses, playing cards, coasters and coffee table books give the setting a lived in look. Only when the viewer examines the individual objects - all created or enhanced by Chialone and Weinger -- does he realize that this “home� is an ironic commentary on homelessness. The fabric the chairs and benches are upholstered with is screen printed with photographic images of homeless men and women in their makeshift shelters. Phrases such as “lost the job - lost the house - been on the street ever since� are written inside the martini glasses and on the coasters in a subtle style that could be mistaken for decoration at a distance. Photographs of the homeless are on the backs of the playing cards, which, like all the other elements of the installation, are functional. Though the other sounds throughout the crowded building detracted on opening night, an audio recording of the of homeless people depicted played under the benches.

 

The two coffee table books are probably the strongest elements of the installation. They could best stand-alone as artistic works and social commentaries. Both are beautifully hand-bound large horizontal format books containing poetic words and images of homelessness. One of the books contains drawings on transparency. The other contains photographs printed on paper. Book making is not a new medium for Chialone and she has exhibited at Spaces before. Her work was part of the “Zen� show of artist’s books.

Chialone was there to discuss the work. She invited viewers to sit down on the furniture, page through the books and examine the cards and coasters. She is from Miami, Florida and the homeless men and women represented in the photographs, drawings and audio recordings used in the installation are also from Miami. This installation has been exhibited previously, in Atlanta, but it seemed so appropriate to Cleveland (recently named the most impoverished city in America). Homeless men and women can be seen throughout Cleveland, in fact, there was a homeless woman outside of Spaces the night of the opening. Hopefully “Lifestyles� inspired new compassion in viewers. “Lifestyles� is on view through May 13th.