Full Spectrum Dominance
Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art
February 24 - April 22, 2012
Full Spectrum Dominance at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art presents two different modes of power–top down, bottom up that seem antagonistic at first glance, but soon reveal an uneasy symbiosis. Conor McGrady’s two large gouaches on paper show the logical embodiment of the new world order: stern men in suits. Completely opposed are Roberto Visani’s sculptures. The artist creates the hardware of insurrection–rocket launchers, Kalashnikovs–out of the flotsam of global capitalism and bits of the natural world. These two models encompass many of the qualities we traditionally link not only to the mechanisms of power, but at the controlling bodies.
The show’s title is appropriate, as spectrum – the range of light from white to black – orients the work within the historical (racial) connotations of power. McGrady’s paintings feature a group of men who, with uncallused hands, mete and dole unequal laws unto a savage race. The Nation Builders (2010), shows a group of men standing above an architectural model for a complex of buildings. The buildings are anonymous and foreboding. They could be Foucault’s panopticon or Philip II’s Escorial. The buildings exert an authority only matched by the alpine slopes outside of the window. These men could be fascists from the past, but also from the future. It doesn’t matter; while Fascism always trumpeted history, it has never been about the present. It speaks only to tomorrow, be it the Thousand Year Reich or F. T. Marinetti. There is little sensuality in these works beyond order and temperance. If these men take physical pleasure, it is deeply fetishized. Gagged, bound.
And to have tops, you must have bottoms. I am not suggesting that the wretched of the earth take pleasure in their state, but there is an unmistakable energy there. Roberto Visani crafts “guns” out of a variety of objects. Construction materials, beads, bits of plastic; all of these are fused together to present a scrappy armory. There is a frenetic instability to the sculptures, as if all of the parts bring some of their previous life to the gun. As such, they are doubly interesting because they are re-made. Furthermore, they look like they could both work and not work. If purchased, there is a 50/50 chance that it could be snuck through customs. This is perhaps why terrorism is so effective at close range and so exciting from afar; it flirts with normalcy.
The characters of McGrady’s world cannot use these weapons, because to use them is to make them. In their world, everything is too well designed to ever need repair. On the other hand, Visani’s world functions only when it is on the fritz. In The English Patient, the Indian sapper Kip comes across a similar revelation. “One cooled an overheating car engine not with new rubber hoses but by scooping up cow shit and patting it around the condenser. What he saw in England was a surfeit of parts that would keep the continent of India going for two hundred years.”
In this ability to sustain life, even that of an object, there is an erotic core. The equatorial zone has always been linked to the Dionysian. One thinks of the fatal Venetian lust of Gustav von Aschenbach. One thinks of 2 Live Crew. (Face down, ass up…) As the face, the ethereal man, descends upon the Earth, it is met by the rising ass of the Subaltern. Despite their institutional authority, McGrady’s characters are impotent. You can see it in their lilywhite skin. And yet, one can’t keep track of the many lives of Visani’s firearms. If we’re still imbuing the gun with phallic significance, and we are, then these represent the triumph of miscegenation.
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Hunter Braithwaite is a Miami-based writer and founder of Thereisnothere.org. His work has been featured on Artforum.com, Cnn.com, Artinfo.com, and Artslant.com. Additionally, he is a contributing editor of Asian Art News.