Pink Elephants on Parade is the drunken fever-dream, the epiphanal interlude, the trippy and frightening number featured in Disney’s 1941 Dumbo. The scene disrupts the emotional and narrative arc of the film, unfolding as Dumbo blows a champagne bubble, and seemingly hallucinates from his body and his personal crisis. Blinking in disbelief, he is transported into a choreographed sequence of identical pink elephants that shift, multiply, enlarge, and encroach. They transform visually: from an odalisque to a pyramid to a lightning rod. The scene shifts from utopian circus, to psychedelia, to providential message. All the hallucinatory elephants inevitably lead him to his triumphant conclusion: he is an elephant that can fly.
From this early, animated experiment, we find the concept of ⌘COPY⌘PASTE. As Dumbo’s endless stream of pink elephants parade and transform, the artists in this show also toy with the performative--staging and positioning bodies and objects in paint or on fabric. They look for answers in the repetition, engaging in open-ended, subjective process. Many copy and paste--appropriate cultural images--in order to idealize, re-imagine, or reconstitute, and to find new answers about an individual or collective identity.
Paul Demuro’s pictures are as personal as a glory box (or maybe a hope chest,) and encompass you like an old family quilt. His paintings toggle between Pennsylvania folk tapestry and aboriginal art--both traditions rendering time and material incrementally, one dot of paint here, one thread after the next. Demuro’s canvases copy, using repetition to meditate on personal and familial images, while conjuring the internet, as his paint application mimics the light shining through digital windows. His paintings are slow, thick, and dense with appropriation of signs and symbols ranging from the specific silhouette of a Gaultier perfume bottle, to the commonplace (an outstretched hand, flowers, and love hearts.)
Ash Ferlito mythologizes embroidered patches, reviving a countercultural brand of California funk and spirituality normally worn on a vintage jean jacket. Ferlito collects, remakes, and recontextualizes the patches into large felt tapestries and washy paintings--a process of hollowing out pop artifacts so they might ‘hang’ with the present. Ferlito’s copy, enlarge, & place process demands that each individual’s smile or mushroom or groovy quote conjure our collective lost optimism. Each icon presents feminist, psychedelic, or utopic love feelings as antidotes to the ailments of the contemporary.
Janus is Georgia Diva McGovern and Julieann Hu. They create original, painted garments through a process of painting, ink transfer, stone application, and collaborative play. Their newest collection reproduces 17th-century Dutch and Spanish still life painting onto a 20th-century Hanes uniform. By hand, they copy masterworks--rendering the precisely placed fine food platters and seasonal delicacies in black and white paint. Their project and blog conjure populist Oldenberg notions, and asserts original painting into the mundane and everyday.
Em Rooney creates repositories for meaning, referred to as ‘book paintings.’ Hand-dyed book cloth is stretched over panel to create a nook, a negative space, for curated images and objects. She collects like an archivist--cataloguing her own hand-colored, darkroom photographs--but curates her interests broadly to encompass relics and characters related to film, science fiction, and personal memory. Her sculptures, photographs and films are always romantic--each a meditation on, or an attempt to preserve a shared cultural history.
Suzanne Seesman creates sculptures, collages, and installations that copy, memorialize, and covet figures in Western philosophy. She points a formalist eye towards the audio-visual recordings of thinkers like Freud, Lacan, or Marcuse, seeking to synthesize and transform each intellectual into a source for her own personal idealism. In Gift Set A & B, Seesman copies, cuts, and pastes the tweedy uniform of her idols to produce sculptural flags, that she then arranges with the logic of a progressive child during free play. Tracing, deleting, and transforming the thinkers’ objects and environments, she strives to unearth a new repository of knowledge; with it, to explore her own relationship to intellectual authority.
Tedman & Strand collaborate on intricate tapestries while working between their respective studios in Camogli, Italy and Twentynine Palms, CA. The distance creates a free-flow of ideas and cultural appropriation--they combine figures and objects from a myriad of cultures, with associations historical, antique, or technological. (They even borrow the Mac OS snow leopard.) Using embroidery and silk embellishment, their fabric compositions create flattened, yet cavernous space that feels somewhere between a Spanish baroque video game and a Jodorowsky set design. The artists seem equally content to lust for the romance of a small Italian seaport village, or to get lost on the dusty, desert set of a dystopian science fiction film.
Pink Elephants on Parade was installed in the Moynihan Station during Spring/Break Art Show, in room #4116.