Thursday, May 6, 2010

Daddy Issues Done Right

EXHIBITION TITLE: Jennifer Locke: Video Action / Calvin Trezise: Love is Not Enough LOCATION: Queens Nails Projects 3191 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94110
April 9 - May 8, 2010

In Calvin Trezise and Jennifer Lockes joint show at Queens Nails Project in the Mission, one is confronted with images and video that are recognizable but also performative. Although both the video work entitled Video Action and the performance based photographs entitled Love is Not Enough are equally powerfully and seem to work well with each other. I am choosing to focus on Calvin Trezise, as I was actually able to discuss each of his works with him. An SFAI graduate, Calvin is friendly and openly admits to having “daddy issues” which is quite obvious in much of the work on display. He is deeply influenced by Lacan and Freud and The Function of the Veil. This may relate to the picture he has of a woman from the torso down with a (45mm?) silver gun inserted, as if a penis into her hairless almost pubescent vagina. Partially disturbing and somewhat unimpressive to me, Calvin described it as one of his favorites. Up close and in your face the image is powerful but I wonder if it doesn’t play on the obvious shock value a little too much with offering more of a critique. Is it an obvious artistic trope? An interesting piece which seems to act out “the veil” is a full color photograph taken in a hotel bathroom with the artist standing naked facing the camera and a plastic (dare I say a large condom positioned over him covering his “head” and ending around his calves. His clothes are piled next to him and he is situated in the corner of a room with a door on one side and a blow dryer and mirror on the other. Both funny and bewildering, in the sense of play it required the artist to engage in and bewildering because the act of covering the naked body with a plastic bag and the implications, such as death, like a body bag, separation from other life, protection, suffocation, etc.

As a complement to the disturbing nature of the gun inserted into the vagina photograph (none of the pieces have labels or names placed near them), he has another print taken at the same motel except in this scene he is faced down on a polyester comforter on top of a bed naked except for his shorts which are pulled down right below his buttocks. He is curved so as to position his face down onto the bed and his back arched with his rear sticking out. His knees are bent towards his face and his feet are pushed behind his buttocks. A sword (a children’s toy) is inserted in to his ass hole. He says he felt the need to take that photograph as a counterpoint to the gun in the vagina shot. I’m glad he felt the need for balance, but I am not sure what they accomplish?

The most amazing work on view is a large photograph of a landscape, which has been carved into what looks like a vagina. It is actually a naturally made space carved into the hill by the cows that graze in that area. Where the hill ends it the perfect day blue sky begins. If one looks closer at the center of that crack or towards the center of the hill is a speck of white that when focused on appears to be the body of the artist spread with arms and legs stretched out and his face inside the natural crack or deepest exposed space on the hill.

To the right of the landscape photograph is for me what is the most problematic piece in the show. It is a picture taken in a hotel room of a naked transgendered woman with a mask and cape on and nothing else. Therefore, what are seen are the breasts very nice legs and stomach and a small penis that looks to be going through hormone therapy. I find this piece to be problematic because the clearest insight to a human sense of a soul in my opinion is the eyes and in this case the mask has bulging white circular bulbs in the place where eyes would be giving this woman no identity. Instead, she is used either to represent the shame that comes with the process of gender identification and the sexual arousal often associated with transvestite behavior. The more that we hide the eyes and faces of the transgendered the more alienation will be associated with those who make the brave choice to make that very difficult decision. Placing a cape and a mask could also be interpreted as someone that should be hiding from society and not allowed an identity. The fact that the mask is that of an alien further problematizes the issue because for those who already feel alienated why would you chose to alienate them further by representing her (the person in the picture) as a character that is not of this world and are often thought of as a threat. The fact that it is also taking place in a hotel room further situates this displacement.


1 comment:

  1. There's great value in art that leaves us asking questions.
    In this article though, I'm frustrated as a reader. The author poses many questions, but poses them as if they were critiques. Silva raises the questions:
    "Is it an obvious artistic trope?" and
    "...what (do) they accomplish?"
    But, instead of following her own leads, the tone of the article suggests that maybe the artist is at fault for not providing clear answers, as if uncertainty were a bad thing.

    For example, in the last paragraph the photograph that leaves the critic with the most unanswered questions is labeled "the most problematic."

    I'm glad that Silva has taken time to look at this work and started to form an opinion. Her true opinion however is withheld. I read this and know which work she favored and which she found weak, but not why. Why does SHE love the landscape/vagina, why is SHE disturbed by the masked transsexual--especially when the image seems to speak so much to her regarding the alienation that transsexuals are faced with?

    I don't ask these questions because I disagree with Silva, but because I feel she has dropped the ball halfway through the game. Her article holds back any emotional content that would give it life, which is ironic sense it seems she is frustrated but what Trezise withholds.

    It makes sense to me that art comes from a more instinctual, maybe even emotional, place. It provokes and reflects our condition. The job of trying to answer the questions that art poses is in the hands of viewers and critics.