Voice Choices

‘How Soon Is Now?’ at the Bronx Museum of the Arts

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Back in the ’80s, when I first heard of the Bronx Museum’s “Artist in the Marketplace” program, I thought it might be a great way to ease emerging artists into a frenzied—not to say insane—art world, where the likes of David Salle’s awkward, overblown canvases were fetching a healthy five figures. But nowadays—when you hear off-the-record tales of investors transmuting hundreds of thousands into millions by immediately flipping purchases from the Chelsea art mall to an auction house, or your BlackBerry beeps as it tracks the fluctuating price points of your favorite minimalist—yesteryear’s market manipulations seem almost quaint. Therefore, it’s not surprising that market-oriented themes are employed by some of this year’s crop of 36 AIM artists. Angie Waller’s video (displayed on a screen set into a car console complete with cup holders) brings together promo clips from companies that provide armored sedans and SUVs to corporate bigwigs, described by one spokesman as folks wary of “disgruntled employees or stalkers.” Another security expert says his vehicles are sold to government officials, executives, and other important people “whom we don’t know what they really do.” (An interesting follow-up project might chart how much overlap exists between major collectors and armored-car customers.) Vidal Centeno uses plastic sheets printed with information about corporate malfeasance to fabricate a chandelier in the shape of a jet engine. A fluorescent tube forms a central axis for the overlapping transparencies, illuminating such tidbits as this quote from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch: “Ideally, you’d have every plant you own on a barge.” While such a scheme to escape labor, environmental, and tax laws never became a reality, other GE scandals (deceptive advertising practices, massive Superfund clean-up liabilities) did; documented here, they illustrate how even damning facts can easily get lost amid today’s info-Babel. In a one-two punch recycling consumer debris into compelling objects, Matthew Burcaw populated an aquarium with shredded plastic bags and bunched athletic socks to mimic the surreal grace of sea creatures, while Mark Stafford created sculptural terrains from outmoded circuit boards. For his piece Black Coffee—No Sugar, Brendan Carroll trained a Polaroid camera on Jersey City’s ramshackle architecture, pushing the old-school vibe even further by using a typewriter (and occasional flourishes of Wite-Out) to annotate each of his 98 shots with Bukowskian whimsy. His image of a clunky mural depicting an orange bowling ball barreling down on a towering bowling pin bears the caption “The story begins after Reagan crushed Mondale to win a second term in ’84. I was eight, and just finished my first can of beer.” Oh, for those innocent, bygone days.

Mondays-Sundays, 10 a.m. Starts: July 30. Continues through Aug. 18, 2008

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