"The Brown Show Pays Homage to Rec Rooms Everywhere" by
Darrel Ronald in The Manitoban
review of "The Brown Show" at Ace Art, Winnipeg
In order to create The Brown Show, five recent graduates of the U of M’s fine arts program have transformed the Ace Art gallery into one big rec room.
Complete with a wall of fake wood paneling, a shoddy old computer and a hideous couch and chair set, this new environment is the hilarious-but-critical product of a generation who grew up amongst shag-carpeted basements, asphalt streets and multi-coloured flower beds. The Brown Show insults, beautifies and pays homage to the not-so-extraordinary objects of our culture’s suburban past.
Paul Roble’s has painstakingly and intricately folded colourful paper into joyful flowers. These adorn “rec room” walls and corners; they are fake, overly colourful and nice. He combines some into flowerbeds of all different shapes and sizes. “Flower Bed (mound #1”, a wall of flowers mounted on canvas, overwhelms the viewer with texture and colour.
His free standing flowers are wonderful forms that grow out of discarded rubber inner tubes – reminders of how we consume and throw away these paper objects and these remnants of manufactured goods, all because they’ve become meaningless as consumer items.
Roble also displays a series of colour-portrait photographs. Here the origami flowers are used as head adornments for male and female models – who are striking either aggressive or calm poses. The models wear their flower head gear in a silly attempt to make themselves either handsome or pretty.
Simon Hughes has painted and embarrassingly ugly series of carpet paintings in order to produce somewhat sensitive statements. One such oversized attempt at making something wonderful out of something awful is “Untitled, 1998”. Some 68 inches by 155 inches in size – part of which features white abstract rectangles of various dimensions – this work’s main image is a wretched landscape of blue rock crags and yellow water and waterfalls.
Above this vista stand two pleased black figures; arms raised as if shouting to the world the perfection of the whole events. While the texture of this painting (on brown nylon carpet) is extraordinary, the colour co-ordination is anything if pleasing. No doubt, Hughes likes it this way – after all, our culture’s rec rooms are not usually a showcase for beautiful art.
In the centre of the gallery, both complementing and contrasting with these wall hangings, are more minimal, three-dimensional works by Scott Hadaller and Les Newman. Newman’s “Roadworks”, the more memorable of the two, consists of six two-foot by two-foot by two-foot Styrofoam boxes covered with black tar and yellow stripes.
Understood as an asphalt road, some boxes allow for passing, while others do not. Their arrangement provides unthreatening paths within which to walk. The installation is rather playful, and it’s quite fun to work your way around the cubes.
Hadaller and Newman formed their installations with visual simplicity in mind, whereas Robles’ and Hughes’ works contain many images and a multitude of colours. The fifth exhibitor of the group, Cathy Kuryk, finds the middle ground between opulence and barrenness.
Of Kuryk’s paintings, two are the most comical, and these are hung directly opposite one another at the two “rec room” entranceways. “Goodness and Light” remains as one of the few shrines to the corner ice-cream-parlor. A three-foot tall vanilla ice cream cone stands ominously on the wall while two red caps hang on either side: we consume, we consume.
“Doggie done it!” shows a horribly embarrassed doggie (mid-poop!) who bears a scolding reminder: we also create waste. We are the dog that poops after enjoying our needless pleasures; we are the culture that unfortunately values passing cravings. We are the ones who should laugh at ourselves and realize our stupidity.
Are we really the great modern society? This show reminds us of our pathetic desires for false plants and our trendy love of shag carpets. A whole generation was raised in rec rooms, and through this installation, we have to bear the memories of our aesthetic hardships.