Bad For You
curated by Beth DeWoody
Shizaru Gallery, London
October 10 - November 23, 2012
by Mike Solomon
Bad For You, the title and theme of this exhibition curated by Beth DeWoody, could be read as a cautionary tale displaying artists’ relationships to “the good” through the examination of its opposite; vice, bad habits, self destruction, and all the other bad for yous, the works here represent. If Ms. DeWoody had organized a show called Good For You, one imagines it would be awash in satire and cynicism, replete with rebellion and defiance. Here instead, there is a kind of “Oh, the humanity..” which resonates with power and pertinence.
There is at least, an implied longing for the good here, even if there’s still the odd celebration in some works, of what is bad for you. Perhaps the works’ authors haven’t fallen hard enough or recognized as yet, how bad, bad for you can really be. For most part though, this show feels like an empathetic display of many of our most human vulnerabilities.
The structure of the cautionary tale could be the rubric too for categorizing works in this show. First there comes “the warning” and works by Larry Clark, John Waters, Robert Longo, Jamison Ellis, Alexis Rockman, and others seem to sound alarms about various harmful acts, behaviors, decisions, devices or substances one might want to be wary of.
The second part of the cautionary tale is called the narrative, or, “doing it anyway.” One humorous work that seems to hit just the right tone is Liz Marcus’s Fuck It. Those words, written on raw canvas along with an amber and gold depiction of a whiskey bottle catch that vertiginous moment, when one decides, perhaps after already having had a shot or two, to down the rest of the bottle. Tony Oursler’s Bedazzled, Set for Life, Funky $5, Mother's Day, Welcome to Vegas is a photo of a stack of various gambling scratch-off cards. It shows the glitzy plethora of fortune temptations that can pull one into the rip of false promise. Fred Tomaselli seems to revel in his chosen vice, by making decorative patterns with pot leaves and Will Cotton’s Rose deals with the sugar cravings of our little princesses while also punning visually, using brown and white to depict both the eater and the eaten and perhaps making an oblique reference to Magritte.
Marilyn Minter’s, Ball Spitter demonstrates the third phase of the tale, chillingly showing “the fate” of those who have gone and done it. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled falls into this phase too, dealing with a consequence of having had sex - pregnancy. While that state is not usually associated with something that is bad for you, certainly sometimes, having gone and done it leads one to consequences that were not of one’s choosing. Sherman’s interest in her gender’s predicaments, puts this topic before our eyes in a very dramatic way.
These and many other images in the exhibition show the hellish Boschian zones we sometimes occupy. So whether or not DeWoody had a moral purpose in organizing this show, the face of the lurid, gritty, depressing, fearful, dangerous, addictive, destructive, and terrible things we do to ourselves and/or to each other, certainly makes one stop and think, and that of course, couldn’t hurt.
Mike Solomon is a New York based artist.view all articles from this author