A caucus is a group of like-minded people who come together to make a decision, and often that decision is about a decision.The idea of a caucus is distinctly American, which is probably why Lewis Carroll ridiculed it in Alice in Wonderland. The US Congress has a Black Caucus, a Hispanic Caucus, even an Internet Caucus; the members of these caucuses discuss how they will vote – when a vote eventually comes. The Iowa Caucus, as well, essentially decides whom voters might like to vote for in the future – when the election occurs. It is in this spirit of deciding about decisions, and especially the deferring of decisions about leadership, that the artists in this show have formed a caucus.
Though most of the works in this show are not essentially about politics, they offer insight about the nature of choice and the lengths people go to in order to be chosen. According to the organizers of the show, the works in this show employ a dark beauty that reminds us of how power engenders its own aesthetics, an aesthetics in which a choice may seem a forgone conclusion. When that happens, the caucus is not mere procedure, but a necessary attempt to call each other out, to identify our own self-destructive desire to relinquish responsibility.
Participating artists include:
Michael Waugh's drawing, The Assumption (of the Public Debt), writes out by hand, a long, rhetorically sophisticated argument: Alexander Hamilton's report to the US congress on why the federal government should assume the debt incurred by the states during the revolution. By accepting his argument, the congress transformed the United States into a capitalist institution and global power. The image of the drawing is of George Washington being assumed into heaven, neither that nor global dominance were mentioned in the report, though a master rhetorician knows when to withhold and simplify the choices.
With Teller (from US trust), Eric Heist presents the simplest of choices: none. The minimal elegance of black glass framed by more black offers us nothing but a beautiful abyss. Seductive though it is, such transcendence falls away when one realizes that the blank panels are actually bank teller windows. The austerity of the work is non-negotiable.
David Wojnarowicz's iconic photograph Untitled (Falling Buffalo) typifies the attitude in this show towards deferred decisions. Hislandscape presents buffaloes suicidally racing off a cliff, presumably chased by hunters. The herd mentality isn't particularly good at devising creative solutions. Yet the crisp tonalities, the setting, and the fact that the buffaloes are merely maquettes all conspire to make the narrative seem as romantic as it is apocryphal.
By placing into a snow globe a scene of soldiers who are alternately shooting into the sky and blowing their own heads off, Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz transform a scene that should be horrifying.
Heidi Schlatter's light boxes reference advertisements at bus stops and on subway platforms, with hip youths bearing corporate logos. How far are we willing to be lead?
Lou Laurita avoids that question through a mandate: FOLLOW. Written large, the letters of this word form the outline of his drawing. Within those large block letters are two other things: the lyrics of the song Make it With You (also the title of Laurita's piece) by Bread – and photographs grabbed off the internet showing people in various states of intoxication.
Jennifer Dalton seems to offer viewers more room for negotiation. Would You Rather be a Loser or a Pig?
In Charles Browning's painting Fluid Allegory, even the option to abstain has consequences. Referencing 19th century American romanticism, Browning presents America (symbolized by an Indian maiden) with Europe (symbolized by a pink baby) attempting to suckle at her teat. The maiden recoils, refusing to take part. But the baby has already latched on. Self-consciously over-the-top, blood from a dead deer and milk flow across the landscape.
Laurie Hogin's work offers another route towards abstention: drugs. In a series of paintings, Hogin presents a pharmacy of animals who are anthropomorphically twisted, vile, pitiable. Painting, still the king of art world commerce, transforms the grotesque into capital. But the self-reflexivity of these paintings, with the animals locking eyes with the viewer, turns consumption itself into allegory. Consumption of drugs or paintings, it makes no difference.
William Powhida presents a new work in which decisions have not been made. The artist has set up a web site at which anyone can cast a vote and nominate New York art-world allies and enemies. As the nominations come in, Powhida will draw portraits of each person and post them on the wall of the gallery. Part voting booth and part gossip column, this project lays bare the cult of personality on which we decide to whom we give power. please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=rgvpNXPHLZ9_2b998Ff0jKfg_3d_3d
Caucus was organized by Michael Waugh, Lisa Schroeder and Sara Jo Romero.
Schroeder Romero Chelsea Web Site