Was the point of the countercultural revolution to be able to pull a battlecry from headlines, put it on a canvas, and sell it for $20,000? Jessica Jackson Hutchins work, Protest Painting, in which she painted “WE CAN’T BREATHE” may indicate that she thinks so.
The statement released by Jack Hanley Gallery regarding Zabriskie Point indicates a clear frame of reference through which the viewer should experience the show. Namely a 1970 Antonini film entitled Zabriskie Point shot in Death Valley, California. The gallery calls the viewer’s attention to the surreality and displacement of the film and claiming a parallel to the works in the exhibition. However the film depicts student protests, a housing development dreamed up by old white businessmen, cop-killing, psychedelic free-love in the desert, and tarnished naïveté. Having watched the film and seen the exhibition, I find no need to use the film as a referent and doing so takes away from the show. The works presented stand on their own well enough.
For a group show, the artworks play nicely together. The common use of wood, plastics, concrete, and light bulbs as ingredients for sculptures prevails. Personally, B. Wurtz’s works don’t do anything for me. With the exception of the trite Hannah Fire Island, a banal assortment of overworked snapshots showing a woman topless at the beach, Ryan Foerster’s works are contemplative and rich. Other stand-outs include: Letha Wilson’s emotive works of c-prints transferred on to concrete; Sarah Brahman’s sculpture of a rhomboid cube atop a tree trunk topped with a dining counter and a potted fern; and David Benjamin Sherry’s photographs of Death Valley showcase his use of color, pushing cyan, magenta, and yellow to their extremes.
Although it is a successful group show, Zabriskie Point should be a warning to let the works stand on their own without such an overbearing premise.
J.E. Molly Seegers