Twitter/Art + Social Media
At the Diane Farris Gallery until May 1
There’s no denying that, for a commercial gallery, Diane Farris’s operation is both trendy and savvy—and that alone might predispose some viewers to dismiss its current social-media-themed show. With only a handful of recognizable names onboard, Twitter/Art + Social Media allows the gallery a chance to freshen up its roster while lining its walls with entry-level-priced art—no bad thing in this recessionary environment, with both institutional and private buyers feeling the squeeze.
But there’s more to this show than smart marketing and low, low prices, although that isn’t immediately apparent upon walking into the West 7th Avenue location. First impression? Lots of little pictures, not all of them good. A clunky painting of gummy bears. Some very advertorial images of women, swimming with goldfish or being extruded from a tubelike sheath dress. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 3-D goggles. A few geometric abstractions in indie-kid candy colours.
Amid the clutter, a few gems stand out. Colin Moore’s Twitter Tweeting Monster and Facebook Poking Monster drawings seem dredged from the same teen-id world that produced Rat Fink and early Robert Crumb; they’re similarly hilarious and creepy. The ever-reliable Rosamond Norbury’s photo-and-text assemblages flaneur Olympics/venues and theatre/hole in the fence combine Twittered comments with images of various run-down urban sites, including the Venus Theatre, suggesting that the real world is just as mutable and impermanent as the digital realm. And an arrangement of two photographic prints each from Maurice Li and Deanne Achong proves that there are some things only a gallery can provide. On-line isn’t the same as on the wall, and here curator Lili Vieira de Carvalho has arranged what might otherwise be fairly ordinary images in such a way that they spark off each other, prompting unlikely associations between seasonal cycles, circular motion, urban nightlife, and the spinning of wheels.
Stranger connections are made by the necessity of donning white cotton gloves to examine Liza Eurich’s bookwork Slightly Damaged: the contrast between the viewer’s finicky precautions and Eurich’s Craigslist-sourced images of scratched, dented, and dog-clawed items of furniture is an effective commentary on the often off-putting preciousness of the art world. Unfortunately, the uncredited photos are the very essence of banality. Isn’t it time that art’s obsession with the abject be put to bed?
Fortunately, there are hands-on ways to engage with this show that don’t require special gloves. The gallery Web site is well worth a look; head to the blog section to view the Dutch team Baschz & Selfcontrolfreak’s witty animated video, Masterpiece 2.0. On Saturday (April 17), the gallery hosts a panel discussion titled How Is Social Media Changing the Practice of Visual Artists? And on April 27, the brilliant animator and Web designer Myron Campbell is organizing a “Draw by Night” drawing party for the Farris—a serious social-networking opportunity in itself.
Judging by Twitter/Art + Social Media, social-networking art is approximately where electronic music was in the 1950s: a source of interesting blips and bleeps, but still shy of producing masterpieces. Those will come, no doubt—and for the Diane Farris Gallery, at least, the Twitter/MySpace/Facebook revolution is already prompting new and effective experiments in interactivity.