Sunday, February 15, 2015

Zabriskie Point at Jack Hanley Gallery

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


  1. Nicely written! Your opening sentence catches the reader’s attention. The detailed description of your argument in the beginning and the photographs of the installation are helpful.

    I am curious how the work read differently from the show’s intention. You described the materials in several pieces, but not specifically how or why that particular work was better without the conceptual framework set up by the gallery. Also, the review ends rather abruptly. Perhaps adding a transitional sentence or reworking the last sentence would ease the reader towards the conclusion.

  2. Ah, marvelous indeed! You set an example of a review I should refer to when I’m writing mine! Here’s my humble two cents: I must agree with Jessica that you have an exceptional grabber in the beginning, it definitely helped me to get hooked in instantaneously. While not necessarily, relevant to the actual written portion, I must also comment on the meticulous presentation you carefully curated; the pictures and the paragraph structure definitely add to the overall reading experience. Subtle, but polishing! However, while there is no denial there is a organized rhythm to your elaboration concerning the works themselves, I would’ve appreciated if there was more subjectivity concerning what you personally thought of the exhibition. The review, while it started strong, did have a connotation of abrupt ending as it progressed. In a sense, shouldn’t have the viewers know all the information you have enlisted in your review? A splash of color of your opinion couldn’t have hurt!