Maximum Overdrive : Art In An Era of Abundance and Confusion
A group exhibition featuring artworks by:
- Cody Healey-Conelly
- Dominic Terlizzi
- Jon Duff
- Jennifer Sullivan
- Mike Chattem
- Paul Gagner
- Roger Allan Cleaves
We live in uncertain times, and according to many historians and theorists our lives are becoming more uncertain every year. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Lebanese-American essayist, statistician, former option trader, risk analyst, and aphorist, believes that our ability to make accurate predictions is decreasing and the rate of unpredictable course changing events, what he coined as “Black Swan” events, is increasing at an exponential rate. Wars, pandemics, political upheaval and life-changing technologies seem to surprise us, overlap and change the expected course of the world over and over again. It’s not just you, it really is happening more, and yet it is hard not to notice some repetition of the past. Conflict and rumors of war between the east and the west, culture wars, fears of global cataclysm, a booming stock market –1980’s or 2022?
Stephan King’s directorial debut, a horror movie titled Maximum Overdrive came out in 1986. It was King’s first movie not based on a book and its entire soundtrack was written and performed by AC/DC. In the movie, a mysterious green cloud appears over planet Earth resulting in every machine in the world becoming both sentient and hellbent on exterminating humanity. While the movie is certainly not considered one of King’s best works, it is delightfully cheesy and unmistakably 80’s. Throughout the movie the characters are constantly asking “What is going on?” and the answer is always the same: “I don’t know, but we need to keep going.” This call and response echoes the dialogues we have all been engaging in over the past few years as the world has kept presenting us with “unprecedented” surprises one after the other, each with potentially devastating consequences. Interspersed within our 24/7 breaking news and doom scrolling cycles are advertisements for a never-ending stream of gadgets and gizmos capitalizing on the ”new normal.”. You’ll be able to effortlessly cope with the new cataclysm if you have an iOS/Android-compatible ring light that can be attached to your stationary bike to stay in shape while you attend a zoom lecture on recent class divisions created in part by supply shortages, the tech gap and political polarization. In short, we live in absurd times of abundance and confusion. While some individuals, like a few big name politicians and CEOs, take advantage of this situation by fueling the flames of confusion and anxiety for the sake of power and wealth, artists have the unique role of depicting, archiving and humanizing our current condition.
This exhibition features seven artists whose work speaks to our current state of affairs, both directly and indirectly.
Jennifer Sullivan is known for making work that first and foremost exemplifies an emotional experience exuded by still scenes. Her house series pays homage to another cult horror classic, the Japanese horror film House. In these paintings, she is depicting hectic and especially memorable scenes from the film, but they are contained in the safe frame of her desktop computer, the entire experience of surreal horror safely presented in the quiet atmosphere of the domestic space. This contrast speaks directly to the way most of us experience the horrors of the world, both real and fictional. We experience them emotionally and intellectually, but only in the safety of our personal, controlled environment.
The work of curator Jon Duff also uses imagery from pop culture but moves out of the quotidian and into surreal scenes demonstrating the psychological strains of modern life in energetic scenes of disorder.
Mike Chattem brings the absurdity of the consumerist object and pop culture icon into the three-dimensional world with his sculptural assemblages. Chattem blurs the lines between common, low-end products and high-end craft, questioning our responses to objects and utilizing their common associations to create humorous totems to our current experience. In reference to his work Here Comes The Sun, Chattem states, “Inserting dowels led me to a radiating sun form reminiscent of a certain flu-like antigen. The chicken nuggets are an adornment to signal our return to commonality post-pandemic; the poetry of a new day paired with the comedy of our normal.”
Roger Allen Cleaves
Roger Allen Cleaves also utilizes our shared associations as imagery but does so in a personal and cultural manner that extends through our current cultural turmoil and into the history of representation. Cleaves’ aim in much of his work is to reclaim imagery and styles that were culturally appropriated in past art styles such as cubism. His work is a combination of self-portraiture and scenes from an overarching narrative he is developing with inspiration drawn from Afrofuturism and other historical movements and styles.
Paul Gagner creates paintings that are as humorous as they are charming. He uses his personal interests and quirks as starting-off points for endearing depictions of his experience of the world. His work is both illustrative and yet has the tactile quality of a long-worked painting. Gagner’s subjects are both surreal and yet mundane, offering an open invitation for the viewer into an empathic understanding of the psychological experience of an artist today.
The included work of Dominic Terlizzi is part of a larger body of work to which the artist has been dedicated for many years. It is both personal to the artist and ambiguous in meaning. The works are visually ordered to a degree unlike any of the other works in the show and suggest a cryptic meaning or formula. The compositions are composed of acrylic medium casts of everyday objects and predominantly bread items. The works are overwhelming in their micro-complexity and reassuring in their strongly ordered macro-structure. The work has suggestions of ancient art mosaics and hieroglyphics that, combined with the historically loaded subject of bread, give the work a sense of authority in contrast to many of the humble items included in our contemporary consumer culture.
For this exhibition, the artist Cody Healey-Conelly created the dazzling installation titled Monument. This work is a collaborative short film that can be displayed both on a 2D screen as well as a three-dimensional projection-mapping installation. The piece is a collaboration between the writer Monica Wendel and the visual artist Healey-Conelly. The video is composed of animations created with 3D scans of trash in New York City and creates a loose narrative following anonymous characters through a world that falls into the uncanny valley, eerily familiar to our reality, yet off just enough to be unsettling. We witness characters in situations both unsettling and yet vaguely comical. Twerkers dance in an abandoned WW2 military installation, a character inheriting a house decides to burn it down, a person joyously flails about before falling down a hole. Monument follows in the footsteps of art movements such as Dadaism and music such as Hot Chip, adding to the refrain “Why make sense when the world around refuses?”
Maximum Overdrive will be on view at the Adelle and Herbert J. Klapper Gallery at the Adelphi University Center until October 1, 2022. A public artist talk by Paul Gagner and gallery reception will be on September 14, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.