For the second exhibition at Metro Pictures' new Chelsea location, Carroll Dunham, Mike Kelley, John Miller and Laurie Simmons have individual shows in the three downstairs spaces, and in the 2nd floor viewing room. The exhibition opens on Saturday March 22 and continues through April 26.
Marking his first show at Metro Pictures since joining the gallery, Carroll Dunham exhibits four new paintings from his "planet" series. Dunham's masterful command of painting and drawing techniques is let loose in an explosion of line, image, shape and color that is concentrated on a central mass of pink, green, blue or yellow. Only black defines the comic dwarf figures that seethe and threaten along the circumference of the circle with their swords, gnarling teeth and distended sexual organs. The black line elements of Dunham's lexicon of metaphorical marks and organisms spew outward from the hurling asteroid contaminating the sterile white canvas beyond. Dunham's paintings and drawings have employed an ever-evolving, idiosyncratic language of psycho-sexual and cultural forms. The intense painterly and psychological significance of his production is preeminent in painting's recent development. Dunham will exhibit a larger representation of new work at Metro Pictures this Fall.
Mike Kelley is represented in this exhibition by several major new works that are reconsiderations of long-standing concerns. The four installation pieces introduce new material to the recent focus of his art on his own history as an artist. A particularly direct and Kelley-esque piece is his latest incarnation of the Land-o-Lakes girl, or Indian princess/Pocahontas image. In one work this image is formed by new white bed pillows placed end to end on a white blanket to form the figure of a girl clothed in a brown fringed "Indian" costume, and topped by black yarn braids. A red sock forming a hole/vagina and two baby bottle nipples on would be breasts are indicative of Kelly's adolescent sexual attraction to the Land-o-Lakes butter girl, and to the long standing American myth of the sexual purity of the Indian maiden. The Land-o-Lakes derived form, a bell-like shape, is employed again in a four part panel covered in green moss-like material that leans with a basket of fruit on an easel. Other pieces employ articles collected in Kelly's studio (gifts of odd toys and objects that visitors and friends gave him) partially buried in buckets under a fluvian of brightly colored vermiculite. Kelley will further explore his past in his upcoming Documenta inclusion, a collaboration with Tony Oursler, that revisits their art school rock group activity.
Laurie Simmons exhibits her renowned late 70's series of interiors and related early pieces that provide an introduction to her later work and a reminder of their remarkable influence on photography. The photographs have not been exhibited together since their initial showing in 1979, and a number of them have never been seen. The refreshingly small, modest photographs are Simmons' first use of the miniature and toy figures in fabricated or composed settings. They are amongst the earliest photographic work to explore perceptually and psychologically based realism without documenting incidents in "real life." These are seminal works both photographically, and in terms of the depicted social conditions. Simmons is a pioneer in the use of photography within the art context. A twenty-year retrospective exhibition opens in Baltimore Museum of Art in May 1997.
In his five new "game show" paintings, John Miller quotes American social realism both literally and stylistically. Miller is a chameleon of artistic styles, as likely to concentrate on his on-going series of "middle of the day" photographs or his sculptured brown mounds of landscape and wall reliefs as on painting upon canvas. In this group of paintings he represents the hyper-real veneer of excitement and optimism that permeates such banal television shows as Jeopardy and Family Feud. Using a consistently grayed generic color scheme and kitsch decor in each painting, Miller updates the long standing impulse to represent ordinary life. In this straight forward illustrative style that is used generally for presenting innocent homely scenes and social and political messages, Miller underscores the inherent sentimentality of the genre with probing skepticism.