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February 2009, Allan D. Hasty & Parker Wolfe @ The Proposition

February 2009, Allan D. Hasty & Parker Wolfe @ The Proposition
Allan D. Hasty & Parker Wolfe, The Shark, 2008, courtesy The Proposition, NY

  Allan D. Hasty & Parker Wolfe’s Hostage
The Proposition
, 559 West 22
nd Street New York, NY 10011
December 16, 2008 through January 29, 2009
 

  For there to be a hostage, there must also be an abductor. The abductor seizes control of either a human subject, or at times, some other object of value and threatens its safety and life with making demands to a third party to ensure the safety of the abducted subject. A hostage often has his/her/its value reduced to financial terms, but can also be used as a currency to obtain political or ideological objectives. Hostages are often taken and seized in exchange for the release of other prisoners and/ or hostages. Hostages are taken under the threat of violence, and levels of violence are actually applied, beginning with the act of seizing the hostage, in order to obtain submission, and to communicate the sincerity of the abductors demands. Hostage situations connote a crisis and demand immediate attention. Violence, and often death is the threat, which lies at the expiration of the abductors ultimatums. What all hostages have in common is their subjectivity being reduced to a medium of exchange.  
 
 To title an exhibition Hostage, implies higher stakes, a sense of urgency. Walking on the north side of West 22nd street, to Allan D. Hasty & Parker Wolf’s exhibition at the Proposition, I am greeted outside by a fairly intricate system of synthetic rope wrapped around, and knotted over the awning at the gallery door. The rope covers a few of the trees and the Joseph Beuys sculpture in a similar manner (the rope was removed from the Beuys sculpture at request of the Dia Foundation- I assume without any ransom paid or harm done to the sculpture). Have the awning, trees outside and Beuys sculptures perhaps, been taken hostage, by binding them in rope? The roped objects call Man Ray’s 1920 photograph, The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse to mind. Due to the timing of the holiday season, the gentle intervention in the front of the gallery is quaintly absurd. The gesture might register in the mind of a rushing passerby of Christmas lights in progress of being hung. It also points in the direction of Christo, but with a stated pathos, and a lack of monumentality and concealment of the objects wrapped. * 
 
 Passing through the rope-bound awning, I open the door and move up the steps. Entering the gallery and I’m greeted by a crowded exhibition of paintings. The paintings have images of women, nude and nearly nude, trees, and other objects such as hot dogs, a guitar and amp, a motorcycle, an atomic explosion, and Uncle Sam- the only clearly male figure, all bound in rope. For some reason the figures faces have not been rope-bound, but are left white with black goggles. The image of the blank faces, along with the rope, suggest bondage, of the BDSM sort, costumes worn by participants in the kink. The black goggles also remind me of the Blue Meanies from the 1968 animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine. 
 
 The paintings were made by mounting digital photographs inkjet prints on paper to canvas with gel medium. This produces a painterly effect over a photographic image. The rope that binds the figures in the paintings consist of a thick, white acrylic line, outlined with smaller black lines. The cartoony effect of the painted lines evokes the détournement of subway ads with graffiti. It is clear that many of the images are appropriated, most notably Tom Kelley’s 1949 nude of Marilyn Monroe from the “Red Velvet” series. There is also the image of an atomic explosion, one we have seen reproduced countless times, a nude from what is most likely from a late 80s/ early 90s Playboy pictorial and a guitar and amp. The appropriated images, being bound in the painted rope might suggest that these images have been “abducted”, perhaps. Other images were not appropriated. The smaller gallery full of bound trees do not reveal themselves to be sampled. They appear as though the artists have produced them. The subject of every painting is bound by rope. Connections can be drawn between the bound women and other objects that boys desire, such as lipstick covered open mouths, a motorcycle, and a guitar and amp. The bondage in these works lean toward the fetishistic. It starts to open up a bit when we consider Atomic, the image of the exploding atomic bomb, bound and contained by rope, and the gallery full of bound trees. Uncle Sam being bound might begin to suggest a political commentary. 
 
 There are two paintings, Shark and Planet, which shut down more possibilities for open and ambiguous readings of the work. Shark features large, white text on a dark background stating “SHARK KILLS GIRL” on the left of the canvas, with an image of a large great white shark, mouth open, teeth exposed, and bound in rope to the right.  Due to the strong, graphic presence of the text, this work and Planet seem out of place with the rest of the exhibition. Planet features a large letter P, with a rope-bound UFO flying over a treed, hilly landscape within its borders. Under the graphic P is painted in a smaller bold font LANET OF THE LOSERS. These two paintings seem like they are from an older body of work, or perhaps a new one, but they don’t appear to belong in this exhibition. Both in their graphic presence and considering possible ways to approach reading these works, they don’t fit. “SHARK KILLS GIRL” conjures a graphically violent image. It is all the more disturbing as it hangs in the same room as bound nude women. It sets a menacing tone, but not an engaging one. And I have no idea what to do with PLANET OF THE LOSERS. I mean, we obviously think of Planet of the Apes, another 1968 film, which is a film about the self-destruction of the human race, and the repetition of its evil ways carried out by ape-men. “Losers” is put in place of  “Apes”. Loser is such an open-ended slacker derision. Loser is almost as banal as “dude”, but with a negative inflection. The graphic presence of the text works overwhelm and interfere with more thorough readings of the other works. 
 
 There is an interesting connection between Atomic and Marilyn. While the absurd gesture of Atomic, an atomic explosion, being bound and contained with rope is interesting and can stand on it’s own, it shares a historical moment with Marilyn. Both icons were produced during the cold war. During an age when the apocalyptic power of atomic weaponry was being introduced to the world, so were the seeds of the sexual liberation. The image of an unabashedly nude Marilyn sprawled out on red velvet in 1949, three years before the first issue of Playboy was published, might have had a similar shock to American’s waning puritan sensibilities as the images of exploding atomic bombs. The historical thread between the two icons is highlighted with the image of the rope. Uncle Sam could join the two works as well, as the U.S. was a key player in both late 20th century sexual liberation and the cold war. These three icons are bound, not only by painted rope, but also by historical significance.  
 
 The project room in the gallery has eight or so paintings hanging in it. These works are images of various trees bound in rope. I suspect the imagery in these paintings might be produced entirely by the collaboration, rather than appropriated. There is an entirely different tone set in the room full of bound trees. The bondage and control implied by the rope wrapped around human figures, commodities, sausages and the energy of smashed atoms does not carry over to the trees. The rope wrapping the trees seems almost commonplace or decorative. The tree paintings are titled W1 and E2, and show different studies of each tree. I assume the trees are images of the now winter-bare trees in front of the gallery, as the wrapped trees out front bare the same title as the trees in the paintings.  
 
 Other works in the exhibition are interesting, but lose some punch in the twenty some paintings in the exhibition. The different studies of the trees might have been pared down as well. Standing in the same room with eight paintings gives the experience of standing in a small, cultivated forest, which had been decorated with rope. In attempt to look beyond the obvious depictions of female, forest, and a-bombs being held captive, and considering the title of the exhibition, Hostage, I wonder who or what is being held hostage. If the exhibition had been titled Hostages and not Hostage, I would draw the obvious conclusion that the hostages spoken of in the title are the various subjects in the paintings depicted as being rope-bound, as well as the trees and Beuys sculptures in front of the gallery. Who are the abductors and for what terms will hostages be released? Money is often what is offered in exchange of the safe return of hostages, as it is for the purchase of art objects. I can read the metaphor of the financial exchange for artworks as releasing them from the captivity of the collaboration between the artists and the gallery. While the works were produced, and not abducted, it is the works themselves, which are held hostage, rather than the subjects depicted in them. The financial terms, which are negotiated for the purchase of the works, might be thought of as the ransom to release these works from their present captivity. 
 
* The trees, Beuys sculptures, and awning in front of the gallery were bound with rope during a performance by Hasty and Wolf with The Walking Man Army, “ a mass of faceless individuals, whose identities are completely concealed from head-to-toe in matching white and black apparel, existing only to create visual spectacles in real time/space” on Tuesday, December 16th. Quotation taken from the press release for Hostage by The Proposition.

 

 

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.
       

Chris Kasper

 

Chris Kasper is an artist/teacher/writer living in New York City. 
He holds an MFA from the School of Art at Yale University and completed the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2006.

ckasper13@yahoo.com

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