Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Local Text-Based Artist Thrills At Catherine Clark Gallery

Exhibition Title: Anthony Discenza Everything Will Probably Work Out Ok
Catherine Clark Gallery 150 Minna Street San Francisco, CA 94105

January 7 - February 13, 2010

Photo: Installation shot, Catherine Clark Gallery

Upon entering Catherine Clark Gallery, you are confronted with strange juxtapositions displayed on aluminum with fluorescent lights that are reminiscent of Richard Prince’s early textual joke paintings before he added imagery and while he worked as ad agency assistant. These works recall advertising in a sarcastic and ridiculous manner. The words are enough to excite the viewer visually. The white words pop out against the black background; one is drawn to the content, reads it and chuckles. The Teasers, all created in 2009 by Oakland-based Anthony Discenza for his second solo show at the gallery, emit strange connections, such as:

Bitches Brew meets the Jetsons meets Haruki Murakami meets Ayn Rand meets the Playboy Mansion.

These combinations cause the viewer to think in a more abstract manner than they are accustomed functioning as a contemporary puzzle of sorts.

Anthony Discenza Teaser #2 2009

Throughout the exhibition Discenza addresses the relationship between text and image, confronting the viewer with commonplace textual systems such as lists, similes and verbal descriptions. The street sign series installed in a back room of the gallery and outside of the gallery reveal humorous and often cryptic messages, such as:


People like the alternative the signs provide. These are not the everyday signs we have grown so accustomed to seeing. Some of the signs reflect cynicism while others address the viewer in familiar behavioral modes,



Commissioned Historical Painting
, is the only work that depicts imagery (in addition to the video). The work shows the cast of Star-Trek with their heads switched for members of the Bush administration and this work is not as effective as the rest. It was placed as if an afterthought behind the receptionist’s desk and makes one wonder if the same person created this work. We have all seen this before and it is too easy; the connotation and meaning are lost when dumbed down.

It is clear that Discenza knows his art history, referencing Prince, On Kawara in the simplicity of the black and white text works and by creating two works spoofing Ed Ruscha’s work in Viscious Beating and Ghost. He imitates coupling text with sunset-like hazy horizons that he distorts and makes the statements non-sensical by adding the word “like”, thus creating similes.

The other work that provides imagery is the fragmented video, The Future Has Already Been Written. Charlton Heston is shown in three of his legendary films, Planet of The Apes, Omega Man, and Soylent Green. The film moves very quickly in an almost epileptic manner. Each of the films depict Heston as a man in a horrible future dealing with conditions he can not control, all ending in catastrophe. This film hits hard in our current state of affairs, it has been one tragedy after the next, 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, making us wonder what will occur next.

Discenza’s work is highly conceptual but also fun and visually appealing which is needed to maintain the patron’s attention in our fast-paced information-saturated world. Text lacks images and lets the viewer conjure whatever pops into their heads, much like what people across America do on a daily basis as they surf the web in their cubicles, daydreaming and longing to be elsewhere. He wants the viewers to be active participants and work for the visuals/special effects they have grown so accustomed to seeing. The ambivalent title plays on this and what we are faced with presently.

Anthony Discenza Le Menu 2009

Anthony Discenza has shown work at SFMoMA, Australian Center for the Moving Image, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Getty Center and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. He has a degree in Film and Video from California College of the Arts and a BFA in Studio Art from Wesleyan University.


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