TV OR NOT TV

Television's pervasive influence on society and the deconstruction of domestic life provide the major themes for two very different installations at Spark Gallery. Annalee Schorr and Virginia Folkestad fill the Platte Street space with mixed-media paintings, minimal sculpture and topical humor.

Schorr's fascination with the sequential imagery of television flavors her work with electronic urgency. The artist photographs TV broadcasts--in effect slowing down the fast pace of TV--in order to better convey the medium's import. Individual frames are blown up, photocopied and assembled in various ways: Some become wall-mounted works similar to paintings, while others become parts of larger, mixed-media compositions. Schorr's video appropriations strike a familiar chord with anyone who watches TV, but they cause viewers to see the medium in a new light. Popular characters and situations pictured on TV and in advertising acquire new significance, becoming components of painterly commentary with a political edge. Complex hybrids of collage, painting and found sculpture, these pieces also function handsomely as graphic art.

In a show filled with broad political humor, the most arresting--and rollicking--portrayal is "Breakfast of Champions." Here Schorr combines a giant, economy-size blowup of a Wheaties box with the smiling figure of ice skater Tonya Harding. Instead of a trophy, her upraised hand holds what appears to be a metal bar. Real rhinestones decorate Harding's trademark sky-blue skating dress, adding 3-D detail and tawdry glitz. The irony of this forbidden image (Harding's fall from grace ruined her chances to be a wholesome role model for advertisers such as Wheaties) calls into question the latent hypocrisy of such commercialized hero worship.

Another disgraced hero appears in "Immaculate Deception," a clever re-reading of schmaltzy religious art. In an icon-mimicking display, the large, central Mother Mary is replaced by Michael Jackson. The feminine-faced man who loves children gazes adoringly down at the Baby Jesus; mandalalike designs surrounding the pair are really the complicated border patterns engraved on $100 bills. Schorr's piece implies that the near-religious idealization of popular figures allows big-money interests to manipulate audiences--and their pocketbooks. The corporate engine grinds on, despite the actual character of the people set up as golden idols.

"American Dream/American Nightmare," Schorr's major work here, is a wall-size assemblage of photo-reproduced imagery and laboratory data. Two rolls of ink-graph printouts from patients at a sleep-disorder laboratory bracket rows of photocopied TV scenes blown up from color contact sheets. Most of the TV images involve violence or exploitive sex, both (not so coincidentally) common elements in dreams. Photocopies of real objects--paper clips, spoons, sandals, remote controls and so on--hang like Christmas ornaments among the dozens of flat TV screens. Flattening these three-dimensional objects mirrors the flat "reality" on the TV screen, setting up parallels of meaning. In Schorr's view, our cultural dependence on TV, with all its frightening influence on our social--or antisocial--behavior, blurs the lines between reality, manufactured images and the world of dreams.

In contrast to Schorr's agitprop graphics, Folkestad's spare sculptural installation "Homesick" pines away in the front display area of Spark. Wordless and stark, the piece communicates in a far different language. Part of the artist's continuing exploration of the decline of domestic security and happiness, "Homesick" uses the simplest of materials--wood, paint, steel and the bare fabric skeletons of venetian blinds--to achieve elegance and poetry. Six formal variations on the theme of "house" each shelter small, boxy enclosures of destroyed furniture and similar objects. These neat but disturbing works convey rooms full of stoicism and despair.

Installations by Annalee Schorr and Virginia Folkestad, through May 8 at Spark, 1535 Platte Street, 455-4435.

 
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