Generic Art Solutions
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
400a Julia Street
December 2–31, 2013
Matt Vis and Tony Campbell—also known as Generic Art Solutions (G.A.S.)—use art history as a lens to examine the power struggles that have plagued civilization for centuries. Their exhibition, “circa: now,” underscores the view that history is repetitious and humanity yet unable to break free from its damaging cycle. It sounds a lot bleaker than it looks.
In large part, their subjects continue to re-imagine Romantic and Baroque masterworks with a modern twist, as they have done for years. For example, The Supper at Emmaus—titled after a Caravaggio painting that depicts when Jesus revealed himself to his disciples—is styled with a cast of construction workers presiding over po’ boys and Zapp’s potato chips. The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa captures the moment before a police officer strikes a bedraggled man with his billy club. (In Bernini’s famous marble sculpture, an angel holding a spear floats over Saint Teresa of Avila, seconds away from striking her with divine love.)
A suite of intaglio prints inspired by Francisco Goya’s dark Los Caprichos etchings translates a similar disgust with societal abuses to that Goya conveyed with his original works. Piggy Bankers takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the atrocities of wealth inequality, as two robber baron-types literally ride on the backs of the working class, replacing Goya’s donkeys. As per their custom, Vis and Campbell smartly play every character—a decision that now oft repeated only intensifies the déjà vu effect. We have, quite literally, seen this all before, yet the performers play on.
The centerpiece of the show is Sledgehammer Symphony, a video and installation. In the video, elegantly edited in black and white, Vis and Campbell—donning tuxedos, sledgehammers in hand—destroy a perfectly good piano. Each hammer’s swing delivers a sonorous echo as keys and chords are smashed. The fruit of their joint destruction lies in the center of the gallery, a collection of wood shards and tangled strings amidst a piano’s corpse heaped on the floor.