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tom moody

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Justin Samson

Been thinking about hippies lately. Not just me, the art world is going through (yet another interminable) hippie phase, inspired by "the rise of the new art collectives" and/or the salesmanship of gallerists Daniel Reich and John Connelly--some cynics say they're one and the same phenomenon. (Not saying I'm saying that, but have had a couple of impassioned discussions with people in the last week who think the 2003 Holland Cotter article identifying art collectives as a national trend was either part of an elaborate marketing scheme or a lazy writer being handed a package by a dealer--"collectives" being a more or less constant, short-lived byproduct of kids meeting up in art school.)

Christopher Hitchens, in a recent diatribe about how much the left sucks, sought to condense the whole 60s counterculture down to one image of lame misguidedness: the commune 20-somethings in Easy Rider scattering seed in the dusty furrows of the land where they have to come to "make their stand." That socks it home all right--but doesn't give the film credit for being a smart and subtle critique of the very phenomenon it was selling: right after the shot of the barefoot seed-sowers, the camera pulls back and lingers over a western landscape that is mountainous and dry, dry, dry. Just as you're thinking that, Peter Fonda says, "Do you get much rain out here?" (And then later, incongruously, opines "They're gonna make it.")

The photo above is a work from Justin Samson's current show at John Connelly Presents. I assume this is a sculpture Samson made and am guessing it was for a residency at Andrea Zittel's Joshua Tree, CA, studio/project space High Desert Test Sites, so no actual hippies were involved. Below is the Mondo Mondo Trading Post, which Matt Savitsky and Kevin McGarry erect outside strip mall coffee shops, bookstores and the like to trade Perler bead souvenirs. Again, no bonafide tuning in, turning on, or dropping out is occurring--day jobs are preserved while we are reminded of our buckskin past, just as in Little House on the Prairie reruns. I actually like McGarry's and Savitsky's project, and I like the Samson photo, but am just wondering--what is it with artists and hippies these days? Is it yet another media critique? (They loved the 60s back in the 80s too--loved to make fun of them--as in Kenny Scharf's sardonic black light rooms and Halley's Day Glo paints.) Is it some unironic yearning for "the real" amongst all the Starbucks simu-culture? A little of both? Can those be mixed?

mondo mondo trading post

- tom moody 5-25-2005 7:20 am [link]