Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fender Bender (or clunkers for cash), John Chamberlain

Gagosian Chelsea

I really should try to avoid the titillation of W 24th St’s master of the universe gallery, but in the case of John Chamberlain its like gawking at a car wreck, you just can’t look away.
Next thing you know his crumpled up car sculptures will be included in a Transformers sequel. (or perhaps the prequel) And that might not be such a bad thing, for this is fun art.
I think Chamberlain takes himself too seriously. His work would look great at a Six Flags park, or a NASCAR event, he would be an immediate populist hit. Crowds would gather, and rednecks would crave to become artists. Is that so wrong?
Entombed in the sterile high art environs of Larry’s Lair his efforts seem ho-hum, and trying too hard to impress. John, you’re just a junkyard dog at heart, don’t get all mega art market on us.
This is an artist who craves attention; using crushed sheet metal as gift-wrapping for celebrations of mashed up machismo machinery. These lyrically compacted monstrosities lurk innocently about, but get too close and you risk disillusionment. These sculptures are not about to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. They are indifferent and imperious, you wouldn’t want to try dancing with one.
Their ponderous scale doesn’t intimidate so much as invoke a kind of pity. You want to put your arm around one and try to console; don’t feel bad about being ungainly and overweight. At least you’re trying to be nice.
One of the best things about this exhibit is the video on the gallery web site. King John is plunked down on a directors chair in his wonderfully crammed Willy Wonka chocolate factory of a studio, surrounded by any weekend warriors dream of a tool shed, overseeing assembly (or shall we say reconfiguration) of his alter ego art.
I wish this guy had gotten into movies. If he’d gone with his cartoonish inclinations he would have made a more intellectually honest director then Schnabel, and certainly have been way more entertaining.



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