Josh Storer, no title 💥 2018
Welcome to Cranburger, Home of the Cranburger, can I take your order?
There was a time in my life, after breaking up with my ex, when I was in ferocious competition with myself to see how much Taco Bell I could shovel into my body before hitting rock bottom or the ulcers on the lining of my stomach couldn’t take it anymore. During that time, on a trip through the drive thru, my eyes were taken by the boy behind the second window—his greasy, long hair shoved under a regulation visor, stretched ear lobes, knuckle tats, and a hatchet man tattoo on his outer forearm. I believe I told my roommate, who was driving, that I wanted to ‘lick the tattoos off of his body.’ He was disgusted.
A new anonymous profile showed up on Grindr THAT night...After a brief back and forth, if you can believe it, the boy behind the second window was knocking the snow from his girlfriends pink UGGs inside my bedroom. I sighed. “I deserve this," I thought to myself, as we fell to my bed.
On a more shallow note:
We got a Jasper Johns flag, Wesselmann palette, and a Rauschenberg collage. Storer’s piece is a glimpse into a 1980 angsty-teen rebel’s perception of fast food, and capitalism. LOOK! THEY LOVE TO SEE YOU SMILE. To sum up: “FAST FOOD BAD. NO BUY.”
The blunt, easily digestible blanket statement falls flat on the walls of this room in the face of the conniving McDonald’s Hamburglar. He LOLs as he willingly unmasks himself. There is no chase, no thrill, he has won. “We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” There is no room for blanket statements ie: WAR=BAD FAST FOOD=BAD
The Hamburglar and the rest of McDonald’s mascots are dated. Storer’s piece is nothing but a warning of how bad McDonalds was in the 80’s. Using these retro graphics to subvert or rebel is a dorky, laughable blanket-jab at the Man (McDonalds). McDonald’s has us pulling in the minute we see those golden arches. How do you beat that? Fight grease fire with grease fire. Fight fast food, with fast art?
Mr. Shneebly, aka Dewey Finn, would advise you to give up, if we recall his lesson on ‘The Man’ in the movie School of Rock:
Give up. Just quit. Because in this life, you can’t win...because the world is run by The Man. In the White House, down the hall, Miss. Mullins…she’s The Man. So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool or pure or awesome. ‘Cause The Man’s just gunna [sic] call you a fat washed-up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just give up! 1
Storer hasn’t given up.
McDonald’s use of the Hamburglar as a mascot is brilliant. A man who steals Hamburgers from the very establishment he represents, too good! It tells children and adults alike that the food at McDonald’s is so delicious that this guy risks stealing it. But despite his conniving ways Hamburglar’s cute, bubbly form, and big eyes win you over—how bad could that cutie be?
Popaganda artist Ron English’s work deals with marketing tactics like mascots. He critiques the way sugary cereal products are marketed to children—parodying the cute, bubbly, big eyed mascots on cereal boxes (like the Hamburglar is to McDonald’s). Through reverse shoplifting, English launched his Cereal Killer Series in 2010. He snuck into grocery stores through out New York and Los Angeles to stock the shelves with hand-made boxes of “Fructose Peddlers,” “Yucky Children Charmer,” “Cocoa Puffed Paunch” and “Captain Starch.” These boxes were a parody of the pre-existing boxes confronting you with the reality of the cereal you’re about to pick up, buy, and feed to your children.
English’s Cereal Killer Series provides a classic “ha ha hmm” —a fun, yet (too) real parody of its original. On the flip side of this patty, Storer’s work leaves me looking around this white room asking myself “ok...and?”
When Ron English makes a painting he first sculpts action figure-filled dioramas from clay and modeling paste. English says, “the underlying idea is to make these pieces very kid-like, but at the same time...do the work in a super sophisticated way like Salvador Dali or somebody who has really mastered painting. Now I try to take the way that kids see things and build it into paintings I can share. It’s like I’m stealing candy from my inner child.”2
Storer seems to be taking an opposite approach. He’s looking at an adult or young adult’s idea that “fast food=bad” through the lens of a child: provisional, colored pencil, quick and dirty, street collage in a gallery frame.
Is this “kitsch?”
So and so on Kitsch: “[Despite it’s rebellious, provisional street vibe,] there is something over the top about [this] work. [It] tug[s] too insistently at the heart-strings, as though not really convinced that [it] contains as much in the way of sentiment as you are supposed to think [it does].”
“...you [have] to show that you were sophisticated in the matter, that you were not so naïve as to suppose that kitsch was real art. But you could make it into real art if you placed it in quotation marks – producing not kitsch but ‘kitsch’, something so blatantly awful that it could not possibly be merely awful.”
Storer is hitting us over the head NOT with “kitsch,” but ““kitsch.””
A degraded American flag made of Amazon boxes, painted with acrylic paint. A color pencil drawing of the Hamburlgar placed into a “classic” panel frame seen in every “art gallery.”
He goes on to reassert this: the Hamburglar’s pointed hand to the painted hand lettering font, and another painted black letter font down the side. He has doubled down. The cards are played. The Hamburglar (McDonald’s) is caught red handed...in the white cube (?)
If Storer’s dark kitschy (parody?) advertisement is to warn me of the horrors of McDonalds, I say, “No shit.” Show me someone that thinks Ronald McDonald actually cares about them. Show me someone that thinks a trip through the McDonalds drive through is a sensible pit stop on the winding road of their wellness journey. Welcome to 2018! Postmoderrrrrrrrrrn
We eat well past the point in which we are “full”—it’s too damn good and we don’t care. This results in short term “happiness” followed by an extended term of actual sickness and regret. This drags us back down. Down far enough that we return to the drive thru window in hopes the happiness will stick this time. An ugly cycle that no longer requires a cute mascot to convince you that it’s delicious. We watch mukbangs, real time videos of people eating fast food, on YouTube for entertainment. Trisha Paytas IS the new Hamburglar, and that’s tea. Welcome to the world of Influencers. They are the shot callers when it comes to cultural pockets of symbolic value.
In Simulation and Symbolic Exchange, Baudrillard adds to the Marxian concepts of use value and exchange value, suggesting that,
in today’s consumer-oriented society, commodities take on a symbolic value that constitutes their “status” and, therefore, power. In the Western industrial societies that are “networked” into information cultures, the generation of symbolic value results from a constantly changing symbolic environment in which new demands for access to symbolic status are generated […]. Manufacturing for symbolic exchange is directed toward the production of the fetish: an object that is positioned purely for its symbolic value. By directing production increasingly in the direction of the fetish, as an object to be used in symbolic exchange, capitalism is able to sustain itself even after the material needs of the population are satisfied.3
We will never be satisfied, never be “happy.”
“Look! They love to see you smile.” Not feel, but see. Happiness may exist, I can’t say—but the facade, the idea, the sign of happiness sure does. Maybe if I smile at my reflection in the mirror long enough, I will convince myself that I am happy. But for now, I avoid the mirror. I’ve convinced myself that I want, need, and deserve the greasy haired Juggalo that hands me my 2 am poison.
Linklater, R. (Director). (2003). School of Rock. ↩︎
Hart, H. (2014, August 12). Marlboro Boy And Fat Ronald: The Brand-Jamming Art Of Ron English. ↩︎
Baudrillard, J., & Grant, I. H. (2017). Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: SAGE Publications. ↩︎
Chris Pinter, Citgo 💥 2018
The 2D Department stayed in a rather peculiar AirBnB during our stay in Los Angeles—some walls were painted a nauseating teal blue, some off-white. The living room walls were lined with sequin fabric panels that we drew penises on. A total of 9 beds filling only 4 rooms (46% of the people on the trip stayed in one room)—each bed equipped with what appeared to be lube stained sheets. Every surface that could be was plastic-gem-tufted-faux-leather. The cherry on top: vinyl letters stuck to the wall across from the entrance to the apartment:
Life is a Journey, Not a Destination
Honestly, same. Delightfu—disgustingly tacky some may say. But that AirBnB wasn’t there to BS us. The open phoniness provided by our AirBnB’s eccentric interiors some how left me feeling more rested than ever after rolling out of my lube-sheets. Dave Hickey talks about a similar feeling in Liberace: A Rhinestone As Big As the Ritz
[...] every night I was struck by the fact that, while The [Las Vegas] Strip always glittered with a reckless and undeniable specificity against the darkness, the sunset smoldering out above the mountains, every night and without exception, looked bogus as hell. It was spectacular of course, and even, occasionally, sublime, but to my eyes that sunset was always fake—as flat and gaudy as a Barnett Newman and just as pretentious.
Chris Pinter’s painting wants to celebrate the realness—the open phoniness of the contemporary American landscape: a neon CITGO sign and a plastic orange tree dashboard ornament. An unabashedly flat “sky” dominates the large canvas cradling the two objects that we see looking out the oversized car windshield. The sign and the orange tree have center stage. But oh no! it seems as though the spot light guy has fallen asleep. This painting is instead a proponent for the folks that are tricked into the “authenticity” of the “pretty (flat) sky” that lies beyond the neon gas station sign on their destination journey to nowhere.
These folks I speak of can’t see the merit of celebrating a silly gas station sign or a plastic orange tree, but would much rather let them exist as a mere doodle, a big doodle (maybe?) to make it more ironic. But we aren’t looking at a doodle here—the “art" making was over long before these black lines were painted on this canvas. We are looking at a monstrous lithograph—a reproduction. Not a painting, but image-making with plastic acrylic paint of what once was (a drawing.) The black likes look “painty” in the way they fall silent as the brush runs out of paint. Although, I feel stiff in the bones from the predetermined path each and every one of these strokes had to take.
This BIG plastic “painting” is nervous. He’s adjusting his tie, checking his breath just before the SoHo gallerist takes a stroll through the room he’s hung in, itching for a big ironic statement piece the folk’l buy right up. Pinter’s over sized plastic reproduction-doodle is juggling, blurring, “bridging binaries” along the same vein as the paintings by Laura Owens: > ...all of [these binaries] said to be of historical importance: the relationship between abstraction and figuration, and between sincerity and irony, for example. She draws in paint with a loaded brush while bringing together various forms of mechanical and digital reproduction, essentially bridging a binary that the art world has focused on since the 1960s: the hand-painted versus the machine-made.” 1
Owens approaches composition and scale as related to the body, while maintaining an easily digestible, underlying criteria as to when the painting is “finished.” Pinter’s criteria is wonky here. Better stop off at the CITGO to check our tires air pressure. If this painting wants sell me on it’s sincerity, I say no sale. This CITGO sign and orange tree doodle
need DESERVES some serious TLC (tender love and care) that they just ain’t got here. The kind of care we took drawing the penises with our fingers in the sequin panels on the wall of our AirBnB. Where is the cigarette butt embedded in the surface of the Pollock painting? I’d settle for a black fingerprint or two at this point. These nervous painty lines ain’t foolin’ me.
“One of my favorite things is fanfare for its own sake.” —Michael Scott, The Office
Post modern art is getting bigger and bigger, literally. Bigger in scale to contend with the brevity of the male ego. Jackson Pollock’s paintings, for example got bigger and bigger to contend with the loss of ego in abstraction. Pinter’s painting is no exception.
Uh oh, the gallerist is walking away. But why? The tie is just, right, breath minty fresh. Maybe if I straighten up, puff out my chest...
Damn. This also might be an ad. But god only knows the current state of Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign that brought light to American food deserts.
Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers [...] instead, they are heavy on local quickie marts that provide a wealth of processed, sugar, and fat laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic. The food desert problem has in fact become such an issue that the USDA has outlined a map of our nation’s food deserts. 2
Slap “What are you having for dinner?” on this painting and I see a BIG ass food desert awareness ad.
Yau, J. (2017, December 15). Laura Owens and the Death of the Auteur. ↩︎
USDA Defines Food Deserts. Retrieved from http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts ↩︎
Matt Ross, no title 💥 2017
“Children grow and women producin’
Men go workin’ some go stealin’”
—Jennifer Lopez, Jenny from the Block (2002)
Let’s talk about a little girl. A little girl named Jenny, who was raised by the streets of south-side Bronx. That’s right—Jennifer Lynn Lopez, who let us all know in 2002, that despite the rocks that she got, she is still Jenny From the Block. This was not J. Lo’s first effort at proclaiming her authenticity through song. In 2002, she paired up with rapper Ja Rule to remind us that she was as real as they come in the song—you guessed it—I’m Real (Murder Remix) (Lopez, Atkins, 2002). “Hard lovin and straight thuggin,” says the duo. Ja Rule follows up with “Bitch, I ain't doin this shit for nothin’.” Lopez was fortunate enough to have never paid the price for her supposed thugging. Rule was not as fortunate, as he went to prison.
Before I continue on with Jenny, how are you Stepbrother? It’s nice to meet you. I dig your bod, the way you shape-shift to meet the needs of those who were chosen, how beautiful! I feel your authority through your tall stature like a prison’s watchtower. (Taryn Cassella and Anthony Nguyen’s riot gear helps take me there too). However, you seem to be choosey, a sneaky snake. I can’t help but to wonder if my work, or for that matter, the work of those in this room, is worthy of hanging on your arms.
Matt Ross made the cut! As I peer upon the images used through Ross’ vertical scroll poster, which feels like a flyer-plastered telephone pole, I feel Ja and Jenny in this room—more specifically the music video for I’m Real (Murder Remix). I’m bombarded with digital textures, images of body, children, the bandana print, and a pattern that reads as a chain-link fence, or perhaps a basketball hoop. The I’m Real (Murder Remix) video presents these as symbols of, as so eloquently put by Ja and Jenny, “hard lovin and straight thuggin’.” The posters’ images are digitally collaged, manipulated; repeated, deconstructed, and positioned in a way that suggests a degree of chaos and degradation in an expressive fashion. The visual representation of, perhaps, when the “thuggin’” comes to a halt and the “hard lovin’” gets a little harder from behind bars. I see you Inmate X.
“I […] got […] a cold feeling toward religion in general. I don’t think God would want to separate families.” (Ja Rule, interview with beliefnet.com, 2000)
Ja Rule, through his experience with American prison system, has felt the challenge of maintaining healthy relationships with not only his wife Aisha, but also their children Britney, Jeffrey, and Jordan. The closest J. Lo has come to this fate was through portraying the character Slim, a broke waitress, in the movie Enough. After finding herself in an abusive marriage, Slim is forced to flee with daughter Gracie while being threatened and stalked by her spouse, until there is no choice but to end his life, putting her freedom on the line. In the movie, that is. This reminds me of the other images within the posters that feel like filler: lines, shaves, and shadows. They feel about as much as J. Lo feels when portraying Slim, a struggling waitress, as she counts her real life millions. Overall, these images are presented as a mood board, setting a stage. The scroll is a relic—a physical representation of a past life or experience that has revoked this particular inmate’s freedom.
I shift my attention towards a double-sided poster hung from the arm of Stepbrother. The same images from the scroll reappear on side A and B. Side A is maintaining the same degree of chaotic presence as the last mentioned poster, through a collaged middle ground. Not chaos through dynamic visual energy but rather chaos through a lack of hierarchy in color, shape, and form. Within the foreground of this collage sits a figure, a minimal line drawing, with a face similar to that of a Johnson Tsang figure—the face of distress, torture, and pain.
Unlike side A, side B’s collaged middle ground images are situated within a grid, suggesting a heightened degree of stability. This world seems to be a healthier place to exist. There is another figure in the foreground with disabled arms: one arm deformed and the other nonexistent. The face of this figure resembles that of beloved American “family man” Homer Simpson. [Sarcasm]
Tobin Siebers, author of Disability Aesthetics, notes that “the appearance of lesser mental or physical abilities disqualifies people as inferior and justifies their oppression…Aesthetics studies the way that some bodies make other bodies feel.” 1 The word bodies can include human bodies, paintings, sculptures, buildings, etc. These figures are painful in their respective environments. Siebers goes on to say,
Of course, when bodies produce feelings of pleasure or pain, they also invite judgments about whether they should be accepted or rejected in the human community. People thought to experience more pleasure or pain than others or to produce unusual levels of pleasure or pain in other bodies are among the bodies most discriminated against, actively excluded, and violated on the current scene, be they disabled, sexed, gendered, or racialized bodies.
America’s prisons are an example of a failing system through the lack of rehabilitation support resulting in disabled bodies—rejected in society post release.
Today the United States imprisons more people than any other nation. Its prisons are overcrowded; contain unprecedented numbers of mentally ill and nonviolent prisoners, and grossly overrepresented minorities. Too many prison systems still do too little to provide meaningful programming and other forms of effective rehabilitation. Yet adverse conditions can cause prisoners to adapt to the pains of imprisonment in ways that are problematic while they are imprisoned and dysfunctional after they are released.
Let us traverse the decks like Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, to the small book nestled on the opposite side of Stepbrother. The book is a spiral bound set of photographs of dads at Disney World, just what we need to perk this up. But wait, this book is a hard slap in the face of those who could only wish upon a star to take their child to Disney World, where dreams come true. These photographs display the grim reality of what it is like to be the financial, emotional, and physical support of a child’s journey through the “happiest place on earth.” I hope you held onto your complimentary barf bag from the plane ride to Florida, in case the nauseating privilege of those who trudge through Disney with their children like they’re carrying out a chore is just too much. To others—Inmate X example—these images represent a utopia, the possibility of a perfect life after a disabling imprisonment. Goals, not chores.
This three point, expressive self-portrait program is a swell art therapy technique to promote rehabilitation: the “scrolled” past, the malleable-poster-flag of the present, and the “goals” book. Seeing is believing, baby! Although, with regard to art therapy, expressed by art therapist G. Agell, “all expressive therapies focus on encouraging clients to become active participants in the therapeutic process.” There is a level of dedication and authenticity required by both participant (in this case, Inmate X) and said therapist. What Ross has displayed is what happens when the level of dedication and authenticity taps out. “A flirtation with materials is not enough. Only a love affair with materials can lead to a wedding of felt experience and formed expression,” says Agell. What does lead us through this inmate’s rich narrative is drowning in filler as a means to reach an ending, but leaving us with a flirt, longing for that “hard lovin’.”
Siebers, T. (2010). Disability Aesthetics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. ↩︎