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An excellent installation by Ryan McGinness occupied the north side of the eighth floor of 129 Lafayette, NYC, from August 16 - 31. McGinness wrote a much-hyped book called flatnessisgod, the how-to angle of which is offputting--it purports to be a design manual when it's essentially just his portfolio--but give him credit for finding a way to get his work out there. The installation appeared in a massive, well-installed group show organized by artist Lin-i Liu (and various invited curators) in an empty Chinatown building, in one of those "the realtors are trying to sell it, let's give it to artists for a few weeks" arrangements; McGinness's artwork filled one wall, spilled onto the floor, and partially covered the windows. The subject matter was corporate logos--perhaps a couple hundred in all, very cleanly rendered in solid colors (in Illustrator?), crisply printed on sheets of peel-and-stick vinyl, and affixed directly to the wall. The pastiche recalls Ashley Bickerton's identity-festooned wall sculptures and Michael Bevilacqua's retro-Pop paintings (without the former's nasty '80s cynicism and the latter's Yellow Submarine grooviness), expanded into a temporary, room-sized installation. Like Bevilacqua, McGinness rotates the labels this way and that, overlaps them, and pays no attention to their "official" scale or color. Most interestingly, he sneaks in a lot of "street content" in form of graffiti and handbill images, which he gives the same slick, high-end treatment. COST/REVS may or may not have made it into the mix, but Andre the Giant did (by the way, has anyone noticed the Andre vs Gary Coleman stencils that've been appearing on sidewalks lately?). Best of all, McGinness painstakingly recreated the huge, semi-coherent block capitals painted by an ambitious street artist on a building a couple of blocks from 129 Lafayette; because McGinness's stick-on version half-covered the windows facing the graffitied building, one could look "through" the corporatized letters and compare them with the originals. McGinness's work invites the inevitable "we're living in a haze of information, blah blah," discourse, but what's most fascinating about the installation is how enticing the logos (and graffitos) are. We're surrounded by these images every day--the Glidden oval, the French's Mustard flag, anonymous "tags" on subway platforms--but McGinness momentarily strips them of their context and presents them as pure, intoxicating design. Even the evil Adobe A looks good.

- tom moody 9-02-2001 5:47 am [link] [4 refs]