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"Slouching Towards Bethlehem"
2004-07-29 until 2004-08-21
New York, NY, USA United States of America

he Project, New York, is pleased to present its summer group exhibition, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The exhibition‚s title references Joan Didion's landmark essay of the same name and examines failed utopian propositions in America. Didion's examination of the deterioration of ideals among Haight-Ashbury hippies during the late 60's helps explore contemporary notions of de-atomization through the lens of anarchist architectural lexicons, cultural bohemianism and hypermedia. Artists include William Basinski, Julie Becker, Molly Corey, Jonah Freeman, Rachel Harrison, Michael Phelan, Matt Johnson, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Jenny Perlin, Karlis Rekevics, Gedi Sibony, Oscar Tuazon, and Fritz Welch.

Hippie Counter Culture and The Critique of the Dome:

Matt Johnson's whimsical sculptures interrogate notions of appearance versus reality by reassigning meaning to banal objects. Johnson's work challenges our relationship to and our perception of materials and functionality. Johnson's Honey Bear (2004) consists of an inverted household honey dispenser balancing on its ear. Though it appears the bear is balancing on the small amount of honey left in the bottle, it is the cast bronze dispenser cap that effectively acts as the fulcrum.  Rachel Harrison explores the relationship between object and image by subverting building materials, such as Styrofoam and plywood. For Untitled (2004) a rainbow colored form, evocative of a formalized "bust" rests on a bed of multi-colored straws. Subverting the principles hippie counter culture, Harrison's proficient use of color, materiality, texture, and can be read as a utopic memorial.  Michael Phelan incorporates diverse artistic strategies to explore the contemporary American landscape. Phelan's body of work makes reference to suburbia, the American Southwest, and cultural Americana. Phelan incorporates do-it-yourself projects and sensibilities, such as teaching himself to make chainsaw carved bears, gas powered go-carts, or Japanese Sumi painting, in his practice. For his recent painting, I Know You Rider (2004), Phelan juxtaposes gold leafing and with an album cover of the late Jerry Garcia. Phelan's works elicit the feeling of communal togetherness within and in opposition to established governmental systems. In collaboration with Jonah Freeman, both artists‚ present Expand Your Mind (2004) and It's All in Your Head (2004), two psycadelic-inspired works printed on perforated LSD blotter paper. Freeman and Phelan reassign meaning to LSD blotter paper in an effort to subvert elements of hippie ephemera.

Molly Corey's The Dome Project (2004) investigates the symbolic dualities that surface when architecture serves as a monument for and a memorial to utopian communities. Corey constructs small scale models of Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes from photographs of past work, as well as from her family archive. Accompanying the sculptures is a single channel video that juxtaposes Super-8 footage of a late 60's - early 70's Red Rock geodesic dome commune, on which the artist was born, including interviews with the contemporary builders of the largest geodesic dome ever erected. The Dome Project physically manifests the fleeting nature of the rural commune, alternate living, and the passage of time.  Oscar Tuazon's geodesic domes recontextualize the founding principles of dome communes, such as Drop City. Tuazon creates an aluminum zonohedron dome constructed from used lithography plates with the large bed inside, as a free, comfortable place for reflection. Instead of merely recalling the radical social experiment of the commune, Tuazon's architectural structure reactivates the gallery space to form a place for contemplating the revolutionary potential of the present. Closed off from the city outside, cut off from the space it occupies, the structure recalls the hermetic architecture of Steve Baer and others at the Drop City commune in Colorado. Baer's zome design system, which allows the distortion of regular polyhedrons along mathematically defined 'zones', was the basis for the Drop City buildings, a collection of experimental shelters built from scavenged car bodies. Bringing the notion of "shelter" away from its roots in a desert commune, Tuazon reworks the potential of this kind of architecture and the social environment it proposes. Tuazon‚s construction is semi-weatherproof, allowing for the possibility of moving the structure outside igniting another dome community.   The radical openness of the commune, epitomized by a collective bank account and land deeded to everyone‚ was contingent upon the remote, insular, and ultimately antisocial nature of the commune.

Towards an Anarchist Rendering of Spatial Sublime:

William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops 1.1, an audio recording made by transferring a piece of music from analog reel-to-reel to a digital hard disk, documents the slow deterioration of a musical score whose iron oxide sound particles gradually disintegrate and become dust. Evocative of an American pastoral landscape, The Disintegration Loops 1.1 memorializes the transfer process creating a eulogy for the original sweeping melody. Elucidating utopia and the poetics of entropic decay, the music exists as a fleeting, ephemeral moment. Possible Models (2004), Jenny Perlin's recent 16 mm stop motion animation, interrogates capitalism as an attempt to purchase paradise. Using the mall as model, Possible Models is constructed in three chapters: the articulation of the Mall of America‚s failure to live up to its potential as a utopian complex; the birth of the Mall of Dubai as the new global super-mall; and finally the formation of the "freedom ship", a floating self sustained mall-based community / commune that encircles the perimeter of the continents.  Gedi Sibony's mixed media sculpture Untitled (2004) intersects a wedge of metallic silver and enamel black installation board through a web-like network of twisting wood twigs and planar swatches of wool carpet. The harmonious interplay of forms, textures, and materials may be read as a model of the universe or a rickety utopian structure of relational qualities.  Karlis Rekevics' cast plaster sculptures explore the estranged relationship  between the individual and the urban landscape. Rekevics' work investigates the psychological impact urban structures, such as barricades, highway signage, billboards, lampposts, and traffic lights, have on the displacement and replacement of the individual.  Submersive (2004) consists of a structural forms appropriated from a derelict scaffolding site. Reassigning strength and functionality to an otherwise ephemeral medium, Submersive memorializes the detritus of an abandoned architectural constructions.   Fritz Welch finds inspiration from agit-prop graffiti, advertising flyers, ambient conversations, and other cultural debris to synthesize works examining the process of disassembly and the construction of anarchist architecture. The Overlook (2004) consists of three elements: a wall drawing based on two family homes designed by Welch's father that employed utopian design concepts such as solar power (that failed financially resulting in bankruptcy), a hanging "model" of the artist's home in Bushwick, Brooklyn (that's currently under eviction), and a block of frozen fake blood that will slowly melt, flood the model, and land on the head of a drum to rhythmically "play" Ringo's section of the Plastic Ono Band's song "We All Shine On".

Urban Repercussions:

The work of Jennifer and Kevin McCoy and Julie Becker employ disparate methods to navigate the socio-political landscape.  Jennifer and Kevin McCoy's Learning from Las Vegas (2003), the most recent of the artist's signature "suitcase artworks", appropriates Robert Venturi's book to categorize the architectural vernacular of the Las Vegas strip. Learning from Las Vegas‚ digital archive of 21 films including Casino, Showgirls, Go, Godfather II, Leaving Las Vegas, and Viva Las Vegas, is an attempt to analyze the effects cinematic representations of Las Vegas has on the formation of the individual. This piece, which serves as it's own self contained architectural structure, contains a litany of categories based on the surfaces, décor, culture of films shot in Las Vegas; category names include "learning from wallpaper", "learning from luggage", "learning from valet parking."  Julie Becker staged photographs reconstruct notions of personal history within the framework of Los Angeles. Becker's photographic series Whole (2002) analyses the omnipresence of the federal bank building in the center of Echo Park, California. Becker's tableaux's juxtapose elements from a friend's house with a small scale model of the bank. Becker used this model to infiltrate the corridors, hallways, and elevator shafts of the house. Becker's photographs employ nostalgia to suggest a political critique of the creation of home.

Jonah Freeman and Michael Phelan
Installation view from John Connelly Presents

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