Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hell on Earth--Number 35 Gallery

© Megan Youngblood
          The apocalypse. The second coming. The end of life as it is. 
 When searching for the word “apocalypse”, Google finds 105 million websites in .18 seconds (compared to “Lady Gaga” who only returns a mere 97 million sites in .32 seconds).
Our society seems to be completely obsessed with our own impending doom—which is perhaps a testament to humanity’s innate narcissism as we seem to think that our time, our accomplishments, and our damage to the planet will cause the end of the earth within our lifetime.

© Megan Youngblood

This very current fixation does not only fascinate artists as a concept, but what also seems to interest artists is the fixation itself. Why are we all so obsessed with the “impending” end of the world (especially in the year 2012)?
In Charles Dunn’s show HELL ON EARTH at Numberthirtyfive gallery on Attorney Street, this idea is presumably at the forefront of the artists mind, an assumption made based on the events name, promo-card design, press release, and (maybe) the black skull sculptures present throughout the exhibit.
However, the oddity of this is that most of his artwork is not as morbid as the show’s title makes it out to be. In fact, many of his pieces are colorful abstractions that are about as horrifying and apocalypse-thought-inducing to look at as a rainbow (that is to say, not at all). Cute, small-scale multi-colored paintings and drawings hang from the wall opposite of large scale paintings of a similar style. The larger paintings use larger blocks of color, whereas the smaller use a more abundant palette with smaller portion sizes and a larger range of color. This is definitely one of Dunn’s strong points: his use of color.
© Megan Youngblood
The black, plexi-glass skulls hold their own sitting next to the colorful artworks on the walls. Their texture, layering and glossy-glamorous surface give them a visual appeal. Being that they are black and that they are skulls, there is the symbolic tie to death (this is the closest to “apocalypse” that is in this show), but their texture gives them a lighter mood—they are pretty damn pleasant for black skulls. These do not stand as the show’s sole sculptures, however.  There are white ball formations which are perhaps meant to make the viewer think about the most famously spherical object: the earth. There were also moon-rock-resembling sculptures situated sporadically on the floor throughout the exhibit.
 Although the promo-card features a drawing of Frankenstein and lettering that looks more like street art than anything in the exhibit (a strange idea—let’s make a promo-card that has little or nothing to do with the exhibit or the art in the exhibit), the art featured at Number 35 gallery is non-representational with the exception of the skulls, and none of them incorporate text.
Dunn uses his skill with color and textures to create compelling works in this gallery to great success. His colorful drawings and intricate sculptures have a strong visual appeal. The one faux-pas of this exhibit is the press release. Just because there is a buzz about the word “apocalypse” does not make it wise to use the word to apply to non-representational art. It does not give the work new meaning, but makes it look like the PR people are trying to.

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